Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Serious Man. A

Based loosely off the book of Job, the Coen brothers' bleak, quietly hilarious movie 'A Serious Man' follows the duo's typical trends of presenting ordinary people whose lives fall under catastrophic circumstances. In this case the unfortunate is Larry (Michael Stuhlbarg), a physics teacher who has one problem after another. He's getting ready for tenure, but he's also receiving complaints about his work. He's not very popular with his students either. After giving one Korean kid a failing grade, the kid tries to bribe him with money in order to let him pass (he needs the grade to get a scholarship). At home things are even worse. Larry's wife wants a divorce so she can be with another man. To top that off, Larry has two teenaged kids who tend to engage in perpetual bickering (one smokes marijuana while the other steals money for an apparent nose job) . 'A Serious Man' is set in Minnesota in 1967. The Jewish culture plays a primary role in the film. Larry actually seeks help from the local rabbis. Though Larry is the movie's central character, a lot of attention is drawn on his son Danny (Aaron Wolff), who's preparing for his bar mitzvah. The Coens originally envisioned a dual character ark between father and son. Though the film ended up being more about Larry, Danny still plays an important role in the story. One of the great things about 'A Serious Man' is the Coens' scrupulous attention to detail. Trying to foster suburban life in the 60's, they create an entirely retro world that captures the sixties so flawlessly it's as if they went back in time for the shoot. As usual, the script, written by the Coens, contains an assortment of odd and humorous touches. Larry's strange neighbors (two of whom show up in a dream that truly startled me) appear for some brilliant irony, while the movie itself opens with a random story about a Jewish couple confronting a possible spirit. 'A Serious Man' is a return to form for the Coen Brothers after their severely average 'Burn After Reading' in 2008. It also marks a streak of three consecutive years in which they released a film. This one came out in 2009 and ended the Coen's third decade of filmmaking. They started back in the mid eighties with 'Blood Simple.' They got even better in the 90s with a series of good movies. They fully blossomed in the 2000s, with 'O brother Where Art Thou,' 'The Man Who Wasn't There,' 'No Country For Old Men,' and then 'A Serious Man.' They've gotten better by the decade. So it'll be interesting to see what they offer with this one. Though it definitely seems like a challenge to top what they've made over these last ten remarkable years with their latest being one of their best.

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