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 final scenes where Larry changes Clive's failing grade, you can clearly see the erasure marks of the new grade before he erases the old one. This could denote the film makers needing several takes to get the right shot. Yet, it could also have been chosen to be included on purpose to show that Larry struggled many times with the morality of passing Clive, going so far as to update his grade, but had changed his mind. See more »
The Coen brothers have created THE NEW FIDDLER ON THE ROOF! Here are the reasons I say that: first, the trailer in its own way presents a musical composition to us; second, the opening scene presents roughly the same time period and place; third, the story takes place in an almost exclusively Jewish community; fourth, the main character Larry is dealing with comparable family troubles and trying to find answers from God; and fifth, look at the poster.
Now the Jefferson Airplane song Somebody to Love figures prominently into the movie too as does ceremonial Hebrew music for Larry's son's bar mitzvah. The opening Yiddish scene is darkly humorous and I suppose it is there to suggest the ancestors of the Gopniks may have caused a curse on the family. I have heard that the movie portrays a very authentic Jewish community especially in the way the characters speak and interact. Professor Larry Gopnik lives in America in the 1960's, so he only has two children, a son and a daughter, but his family and professional troubles turn his life on its head with divorce, marijuana, gambling, bribes, and seeking tenure. Wishing he were a rich man hasn't changed though! Being an educated man from the 20th century means Larry doesn't have conversations with God in the same way. He seeks three rabbis as links between him and God because the religious institution is really the only connection to tradition anymore, and being a mathematics/physics professor he is more versed in the Uncertainty Principle. Larry does actually venture up on his roof too, but not to fiddle. Well, wait... yes, by another definition of the word fiddle, Larry Gopnik is a fiddler on the roof. He tries to adjust the TV antenna for a show his son likes to watch and then he notices he can see his hot neighbor sunbathing nude.
Sy Ableman is Larry's Lazar Wolf, but as with every other parallel to the old musical, there is a twist. Sy is the one described as a serious man and Larry through all his questioning and trying to fix his life crisis wants to be a serious man too. The cast is awesome! I think the Coen brothers have mixed tragic troubling moments with darkly humorous moments excellently. Like in No Country for Old Men, you may think the plot is being wrapped up all nice and neat, but then the story continues briefly and leaves you realistically (in a way fatalistically) hanging. So well constructed! I loved it!
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