A Serious Man

A Serious Man is the first outing for the Coen brothers since mastering both the thriller and the comedy (thriller) in 2007 and 2008 respectively, with the epic award-winning No Country for Old Men & the hilariously all-star fast paced Burn after Reading. The Coens' have proved themselves to almost be the bastard twin children of Stanley Kubrick, if it were, in systematically mastering any genre they please.  From the inception of Blood Simple in 1984 to 2001 s The Man Who Wasn t There they were as Joel directing and Ethan producing unstoppable as a formidable cinematic force.

From the chilling Fargo and the cult genius of The Big Lebowski the Coen brothers have always had something inspiring to offer, despite a directorial drought between 2001 and 2007, they have made one of the most successful comebacks in Hollywood with their adaptation of Cormac McCarthy s brutal novel No Country for Old Men. Such success has now allowed Joel and Ethan to explore more personal roots with A Serious Man, which takes a semi-biographical role upon a fresh faced Larry Gopnik (played by newcomer Michael Stuhlbarg)  who we learn is an unsuspecting Jewish family man and physics professor attempting to balance all the perils of his circumstances in life.

This film in particular proves to show the Coens' at ease with themselves and their abilities, where before they worked fastidiously to achieve feats of extremes, with A Serious Man they have learnt to relax and tell a simple story that is both relevant on a personal and contemporary level. The genius of this film is its exercise in subtlety, in that it is at the film s most uninventive or stagnant procrastinations where we find its most idiosyncratic charms and poignancy. From Richard Kind s psychotic performance as Larry s brother Arthur to Fred Melamed s adulterating hippy Sy Ableman, each character brings an uncomfortable yet joyous twist of events to poor Larry Gopnik s hapless series of disappointments he calls life.

There is an especially memorable sequence in which one of Larry s students Clive, a young Korean man who attempts to bribe the ethical Larry into giving him an A on his coursework leads to not only Larry losing his faith in his work but perhaps his legs when Clive s Father pays him a visit. However the films central connotations rest as a contemplation or critique of Judaism as it was in mid-60s middle America and the nature of a man s purpose and role in the modern world, whether it be with his family, his work, his religion, his friends or his own goals.

Furthermore, A Serious Man may not offer the adrenaline of Old Men or the sharpness of Burn after Reading, but it will make you laugh-out-loud when you least expect it, teach you a thing or two about life, and charm your willing socks off with its realistic yet ultimately ridiculous expedition of one man s normality.


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