Bloomington, Minnesota, 1967: Jewish physics lecturer Larry Gopnik is a serious and a very put-upon man. His daughter is stealing from him to save up for a nose job, his pot-head son, who gets stoned at his own bar-mitzvah, only wants him round to fix the TV aerial and his useless brother Arthur is an unwelcome house guest. But both Arthur and Larry get turfed out into a motel when Larry's wife Judy, who wants a divorce, moves her lover, Sy, into the house and even after Sy's death in a car crash they are still there. With lawyers' bills mounting for his divorce, Arthur's criminal court appearances and a land feud with a neighbour Larry is tempted to take the bribe offered by a student to give him an illegal exam pass mark. And the rabbis he visits for advice only dole out platitudes. Still God moves in mysterious - and not always pleasant - ways, as Larry and his family will find out. Written by
don @ minifie-1
Judith has Larry meet her and Sy at the Embers restaurant to discuss family matters. Embers was a popular chain of "family restaurants" in the Twin Cities in the 60s and 70s, known for TV ads in which a local actress would promise customers dissatisfied with a menu item would have it "cheerfully exchanged." An early Embers spokeswoman was a then-unknown Lonnie Anderson, who would go on to star in TV shows and film. St. Louis Park, where the story is set, had a number of Jewish delicatessen restaurants. That Judith has insisted on discussing private matters supposedly governed by their Jewish faith in a public place adds to Larry's feeling that faith, and thus Hashem, is crumbling all around him. That Embers as is a specifically "mainstream Minnesota" public space identified with Anderson's Scandinavian blondness is an inside joke adding to Larry's feeling of isolation and entrapment. In real life, there was an Embers about.75 mile from the Coen family home, and Joel and Ethan probably ate there numerous times. Embers began to decline in the 80s and eventually went belly up, though the name has been licensed to a few independent restaurants. The location in the film does not resemble an actual Embers in any way. See more »
In the event of a tornado warning in suburban Minneapolis, air raid sirens would have been activated to notify everyone to take shelter. See more »
I saw this movie at TIFF on Saturday. The Coens quietly (and I mean quietly - no-one could hear even their amplified voices) introduced the movie with reference to the actors present but not the movie, letting it speak for itself. And it did. In its own way. It is an off-beat (what else?) and serious work that radiates bleak despair while searching for a funny bone. In the process, the movie makes other black comedies look positively light and airy. The movie evokes laughs from a different place than most from a profound discomfort watching people twist themselves this way and that to fit in and be regarded seriously, whether situationally, socially or religiously. A great piece of work that will have you thinking long afterwards, especially considering the odd and difficult-to-contextualize prologue and, um different, ending which bookend a remarkable work.
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