Release Date: October 2nd, 2009
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Larry Gopnik(Michael Stuhlbarg) is an ordinary, Jewish physics professor living with his family in Minneapolis-Saint Louis Park in Minnesota. As far as Larry is concerned, everything in his life is going fine. Larry is happy with how things are going until one day it all starts to go down hill. Larry's wife Judith(Sari Lennick) wants to divorce Larry so she can be with recent widower and family friend Sy Ableman(Fred Melamed), his son, Danny(Aaron Wolff), is a habitual marijuana user, his daughter Sarah(Jessica McManus) is stealing money out of his wallet to pay for a nose job, his unemployed brother Arthur(Richard King) won't get off of the couch and a disgruntled Korean student, Clive(David Dang), is attempting to bribe Larry with for a passing grade.
As time passes, Larry's life gets more and more crazy. Danny's bar mitzvah is coming up, Clive's father is threatening to sue Larry for bribery if he takes the money or with defamation of character if he doesn't, Sy and Judith make Larry and Arthur move into a nearby motel and Larry's attractive neighbor Vivienne Samsky(Amy Landecker) is tormenting Larry by sunbathing nude. As his life spirals out of control, Larry decides that he needs to see the three Rabbis that oversee his community. The first is Rabbi Ginzler(Simon Helberg), a very young Rabbi whose advice doesn't quite set well with Larry. The second is Larry's regular Rabbi, Rabbi Nachtner(George Wyner) who tells Larry of a story he heard of a Jewish dentist finding a message in Hebrew on the teeth of a Gentile man. However, Larry is ultimately disappointed when the story reveals to have no motive or purpose. But Larry seems to arrive at his wits end when he is denied a meeting with the Rabbi Marshak, an elderly rabbi who has restricted his meetings to congratulating boys completing their bar mitsvahs.
As Larry's life gets worse, he tries to balance keeping his family together, keeping his brother out of jail, hosting his son's bar mitzvah and getting a tenure at his university. Larry tries everything he can to become what he thinks will solve all of his problems, a serious man.
Coming from the hilarious minds of the Coen brothers, A Serious Man is a story that explores questions about faith, family responsibilities, delinquent behavior, academia, mortality and Judaism and everything in between. A Serious Man is showcased as a comedy though the comedic aspects of the film are ones that may only attract a certain audience but for those of you who will like this movie, you will love it.
Academy Award-winning writer/directors Joel and Ethan Coen do not deliver the type of laughs you would expect to see in a film dubbed a comedy. The brothers deliver a rich, dark humor that has the potential to punch straight through to the core of many people. The film blends the profound dark humor with deeply personal themes creating a more mature film than typically seen from the duo that brought you such great movies as The Big Lebowski, Raising Arizona and Fargo. The great thing about this film is that it manages to be funny without resorting to crude humor or bathroom jokes. It connects with a sense of reality that many people can relate to and it also provides genuine laughs.
What makes A Serious Man stand out from other movies is that it manages to capture what it was like to be an average, working class person with real issues. Trouble with the family and trouble at work are something practically every single person in the world can relate too and those themes in this film are what makes it personal and fantastic. The humor, being as dark as it is, is also (in my opinion) very dry. Anybody can get up and say a lot of shocking and offensive things to get a laugh out of people but this film gets its laughs by making people think and empathize with the main character. This film makes allows people to enjoy it on an intellectual, moral and situational level that many movies these days fail to do, which is why this film works.
I thought that this film did an incredible job capturing life in a Jewish, suburban setting in 1967. The visual aspect of the film was great. The use of colors really brought out the overall feel of the film. It had a sort of gray and gloomy feel. All the clothes of the characters were bland and ordinary and all the environments seemed to complement the overall feel of helplessness and distress quite well. The Coen brothers have always done a fantastic job at complementing the theme of their films with the background colors and appearance of the characters which I think adds so much more to a film.
In his first major lead role, I thought actor Michael Stuhlbarg was fantastic. I thought that he did a great job promoting just how out of whack things were getting for his character. Stuhlbarg was very believable and his performance made the audience empathize with him and really feel the pain and befuddlement his character was feeling. It really hits with the audience when you see a character's life falling down around them and knowing that they did not deserve any of it. Stuhlbarg and the Coen brothers really made characters that the audience can relate to.
Aside from the strange and confusing prologue to the film and the ending that will require you to think and ponder on the what is assumed to happen, A Serious Man is definitely a film to pick up. The dark, dry humor is something entertaining and hard to come by in comedy films of today and the rich, profound personal themes tug at your hearts and captivate you as an audience. People who see this film will either love it or hate it and for those of you who love it you will truly enjoy what the Coen brothers have delivered.
I give A Serious Man 8 Goys out of 10.
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