The Coen Brothers’ Latest is a Tour-De-Force

Posted by Greg on Oct 26, 2009 in Movies

Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) is a quiet, unassuming college physics professor in 1967 suburban Minnesota. His only son Danny (Aaron Wolff) is preparing for his bar mitzvah, his only daughter is more concerned with her appearance than anything else and his wife (Minneapolis-based actress Sari Lennick) is seeking to divorce him. Larry’s brother Arthur (Richard Kind), an out-of-work genius has joined the family and is sleeping on the couch, all the while tending to a sebaceous cyst and putting the finishing touches on a homemade device. Larry seems to enjoy his work as a professor and has an appointment with the tenure committee, but a bribery attempt by a failing South Korean student throws a wrench into Gopnik’s quiet ho-hum life. This premise sets the stage A Serious Man, the latest film by the Coen brothers, a semi-autobiographical, heavily Jewish narrative that’s wry, acerbic and charming. Utilizing a veritable no-name cast, the Coen brothers allow the quirky and painfully honest screenplay to do the work. All the accessory characters are razor sharp, and the lead characters do not disappoint. Tony-nominee Stuhlbarg shines in his first starring role and the film moves briskly and comically. There’s no laborious scenes, no glossing over anything, it’s swift and to the point. Those that enjoyed the silliness of Burn After Reading, will certainly find some resonance in this odd, slightly screwball indie delight. Equal parts Jeffrey Blitz, PT Anderson and Noah Baumbach, A Serious Man is a wry look at how the pangs of life can affect even the most straight-laced, good-intentioned people. While it’s hard to top the multi-Oscar winning success of No Country For Old Men, A Serious Man is a stark and refreshingly frank portrait of two filmmakers who seem to do little wrong and get stronger every time out. Dylan Young of the Canadian magazine Hour seemed to sum it up best, “A film about the metaphysics and mundane hardships of life, the contradictions, comforts and hypocrisies of the Jewish faith and the astonishing significance of nothing in particular.”

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