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
A Serious Man, the Coen Bros new film, is different from what has come before it. Many will inevitably try to compare the numerous dream sequences to the surrealism and (Jewish) neuroticsm prevalent in Barton Fink. Others how the film beats up the character as the Coens did in the recent Burn After Reading, practically patronizing how shallow and often stupid they are. Yet the film is also filled with a great amount of warmth and despite the jolt the ending has-I think ultimately is a film about coping.
A plot summary doesn't do much to describe the film which is separated into a prologue set in Poland in Yiddish then chapter headings that show when the protagonist seeks out three main rabis. As his troubles compound the situations become increasingly bizarre and humorous. The humor feels more universal than, say, Burn After Reading. Particularly in the insulation of these characters as most, if not all scenes, take place from Larry's perspective. His unorthodox and uptight American neighbors, a Korean student of his, etc. all have very funny interactions with Larry that the audience enjoys. His inability to really deal with his surroundings and his timid nature are played for great comedy.
It's hard to effectively write up about the film's merits as it is so abstract. Audience opinion is likely to be divided as this does not conveniently fit into the Coens cannon. There is no ransom plot, no bursts of sudden violence and no major stars who make fools of themselves. Instead the film is tightly constructed by trying to convey the atmosphere of living and dealing in this time and place. The ambiance of the film is perhaps its strongest and weakest element. Since it relies so much on mood and texture, it's hard to do a full critical analysis. Many will differ in their response to the significance of the ending or the significance to the film on the whole. Personally I recommend it.
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