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
In a nutshell, the movie takes place in the 60's, in a very American/Jewish neighborhood. If I was Jewish I probably would take offense, because almost all the characters in the movie are unbearable for one reason or another. However, the Coen brothers are equal opportunities offenders and even if this movie concentrates on a Jewish environment, their other movies are generously filled with deepest contempt for all humankind, regardless of race, sex, nationality or religion.
The main character is a physician named Larry who is passive, meek and spineless beyond credibility. Or maybe that was supposed to be funny . Anyway, lots of bad things happen to Larry, but I found it difficult to sympathize with him. Besides being unaware of his surroundings and the people around him to the point of autism, Larry is also seeking answers to the wrong questions in places where he cannot find any.
Bad things happen to good people for no reason whatsoever. We should all be acquainted with this disagreeable truth. However, humankind struggles hard to find a meaning in life. Unfortunately, searching for meaning to understand tragic events usually leads to absurd explanations and an even heavier burden of frustration.
This is what happens to Larry, but who cares? Certainly not me. As mentioned, he is almost completely detached from reality, so obviously he does not have a clue. But not only we have to follow Larry stumbling around like a blind man. To increase the indignity of the show, we are presented with a gallery of supporting characters, one more grotesque, ugly and disgusting than the other.
Actually, I can't think of a single character in this movie without an emotional or physical problem (or both). The full range of indignities includes an obese woman mercilessly shown shuffling her feet and struggling to move her heavy body; a string of the senior citizens chewing on their teeth less mouths and loosing track of what they are saying; a bunch of foul-mouthed teenagers, selfishly self-absorbed and focused only in bullying each other; a couple of sluttish housewives; a stupid red-neck neighbor; a bald, fat guy suffering from some sort of embarrassing skin disease; etc . I am sure Diane Arbus would have been impressed with this gallery of monsters. Me, not so much.
And here is where I find the deal breaker with the Coen brother's filmography. There is not a single one of their movies that does not present a gallery of every-day freaks. People with grotesque physical and mental imperfections do exist, but they seem to inhabit the Coen universe in an exceeding large number, and I find the display of so much freakishness rather disturbing. Besides, I might agree about the fact that there is no meaning in life, but when I go to the cinema I want to see a good movie, I do not want to be patronized or to follow a philosophy lesson.
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