Facebook Twitter


a-serious-man“A Serious Man,” though being billed as a comedy, may be the bleakest film the Coen Brothers have ever made. And remember these are the guys who once stuffed someone in a wood chipper on film. The story of a man who thought he did everything right, only to be jabbed in the eye by the fickle finger of fate is a tragiomedy that shows how ruthless real life can be.

This loosely plotted slice of life involves two very bad weeks in the life of physics professor Larry Gopnick (stage actor Michael Stuhlbarg). In an escalating series of events his life is turned upside down. His neighbor is unfriendly, his son complains nonstop about the poor TV reception, his wife announces she’s leaving him for another man and the committee who decides if he will get tenure at his university has been receiving uncomplimentary letters about him. As if that wasn’t enough, his deeply depressed brother is sleeping on the couch.

Set in 1967 Minnesota “A Serious Man” is apparently a thinly veiled look at the early life of the Coens, and if this is true, they deserve the designation of tortured artists. This film is darkly funny, but a celebration of life it ain’t.

Stuhlbarg does award level work turning Larry’s misery into a compelling and fully formed portrayal of a man in torment and the film is beautifully made but this is one of the quirkier efforts—example: there’s an old Rabbi who spouts Jefferson Airplane lyrics—from the filmmaking brothers. Plotting is virtually nonexistent and the abrupt ending makes “No Country Fore Old Men’s” unexpected finale seem wordy and drawn out.

Gopnick is portrayed as a good man, someone who has always done the right thing for his family and faith but reaped none of the benefits. His kids are indifferent to him, his wife openly contemptuous and he doesn’t appear to be on the fast track at work and that’s what makes “A Serious Man” so bleak. Nobody said life was fair but Larry Gopnick never gets a break, which, I suppose is the point of the film, but the futility of life message, while thought provoking, is a serious downer.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.