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
This movie is a wonderful assessment of the defunct quality of American Judaism in the current period, or the last half century. Larry Gopnik, for reasons I cannot see, seems inclined to want to understand his dilemmas and woes, as well as his successes, as the work of God, calling Him by the orthodox Jewish evasion Ha Shem (the Name). Trying to do this he encounters Jews, both rabbis and ordinary Jews, who give him Jewish answers to his questions, answers which have been unsatisfactory since the writing of the Book of Job many centuries ago. The rabbis are evasive, superficially knowledgeable, self-righteous, and in general ridiculous. The ending, which I will not reveal, is pure Coen Brothers: sardonic and outrageously true.
The Jews portrayed could be considered anti-semitic caricature: all have big noses, loud voices, unpleasant expressions, etc. But the Coen Bros. are Jewish and know the tribe pretty well. The only Jew in the whole movie who comes out looking good is the old bearded rabbi Marshak. The start of the movie, in some Galician shtetl, is funny but misleading. The Yiddish spoken there is the Galizianer type which is very different from the Yiddish of the much more educated Litvaks in pre-Hitler Europe. I doubt many who even know Yiddish would understand it, but there are subtitles.
In short not a happy movie but one which Jews need to take seriously lest they pretend their obsolete religion can have any relevance today. Christianity is just as irrelevant but in different ways.
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