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
Red Owl was a real Midwest grocery store chain, with several stores in the Twin Cities area, including Knollwood Plaza in St. Louis Park, about two miles south of the Coen family home. The Red Owl mentioned in the film is identified as being in Bloomington, suburb some ways to the south of St. Louis Park. The significance in Rabbi Nachtner's anecdote is that Sussman's investigation of the teeth mystery takes him on a drive in the middle of the night that would have taken about an hour and a half round trip: far enough to seem just a little obsessed, but not too much. The Red Owl sign used in an exterior scene in the movie was a genuine antique, which unfortunately was accidentally dropped and destroyed after filming. 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 »
A Serious Man, by the Coen Brothers, tells the story of a physics lecturer (Michael Stuhlbarg), Larry Goepnik, as each part of his life crumbles around him; making him question everything he once had faith in.
Once again Joel and Ethan delve into ancient texts to tell a modern parable about the disconnect between religion and science using the Book of Job as their mirror tale. Each tragedy shows us how Larry is torn between his profession and his heritage. Stuhlbarg's interpretation of this character is the strongest part of this film; little nuances of touching himself and, a definite sense of discomfort throughout made me empathise with Larry in every scene. Even the facial movements of Larry illustrates the strain being placed upon this man.
The dialogue in the film could be poetic at times, but there was a constant drive towards narrative, and it left me feeling removed from connecting with anyone but Larry. The scene where Larry is being told by his wife's lover that he has to move out felt comic but cold, and the majority of other scenes kept this tone. And since the plot was a bit episodic, this made the tragedies feel unreal and repetitive.
The Coen's direction also felt tired compared to their other films. Typical Coen brother tracking shots, their usual portrait shots, action shots contained to one characters reaction; nothing new. The care and inventiveness that I would usually expect wasn't there. I suppose it being the fourth film from the two in a three year period, they just didn't seem wholly engaged in it. One particular scene where they are tracking a shot down a hall to a crying woman as her crying gets louder, it didn't add any further character development and wasn't interesting but felt like a "Coen" shot.
Thematically the film was alright, and there are some interesting things that could be analysed, but it was was underwhelming and at times a bit vague in what they were actually trying to say. The ending of the film was indicative of this; 2 interwoven scenes concluding two plots, adding more tragedies to Larry's life but giving nothing to the audience except these tragedies and a feeling of resignation. Being this direct in the treatment of your subject can be dull, and I was left unsatisfied.
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