Sunday, 31 January 2010

Musings On A Serious Man

Someone, who I cannot recall, commented to the chagrin of the majority that A Serious Man was a film for Jews only. I wouldn’t make that claim, as much as I would say that knowledge of the Jews would probably increase you’re appreciation of the piece. In Guyana the religious spectrum is almost evenly divided among Christians, Muslims and Hindus. To my knowledge, I’ve never met a Jew. So my knowledge of the Jews is minimal at best. I say this preamble because watching A Serious Man I couldn’t help feeling that I was missing something that would illuminate the entire film and show some wisdom that the Coen’s were attempting to imbue to the film. But, alas, I can’t be certain what that something is, or even if there is a veritable anything that I was missing form the narrative.
On a superficial level, A Serious Man is competent. Michael Stuhlberg plays our hero [?] college Physics teacher with some serious issues, both professionally and domestically. I can’t fault Stuhlberg, even though I feel that he’s been written into a sort of box. There doesn’t seem to be any significant character arc that the Coens’ have written for him, so it all feels feel rather pointless after the fact, which is not an unnatural feeling after any Coen film. I always feel like their intent is always to make us leave their films thinking “what just happened”. Sometimes it serves the plot, but I just wonder if A Serious Man may have been more successful it had a little more structure. I wish the Coen’s would have done a movie instead of trying to make some [existentialist? Jewish?] point.
I’m hitting an impasse trying to write about this film. I wish I could have loved Stuhlbarg physics' professor a bit more, and I wish that Sari Lennick would have been given a real role instead of being relegated to mere prop device - she's sensational at times. I really wanted to at least appreciate it for its merits but it all ends up feeling slightly clunky to me.
I wrote the above early January which was a few weeks after actually seeing A Serious Man. Since, I've heard the "explanation" that it's a Jewish account of the Book of Job which only annoys me even more - parallels are there. The issue with the Coen's is that the don't seem to take anything seriously and at the end of the day I look Larry not even with empathy, or sympathy but just exasperation. Perhaps, a C+ in retrospect...then again, no.


Zach said...

Regarding the film, I'm a pretty big Cohen Bros fan, but this film just did not do it for me. It had some great black/dark humor, but I wasn't intrigued by the film as a whole. I came to the conclusion that this premise would have worked better as a television show.

Univarn said...

I got a few good laughs from this movie, thought the performances were quite good, but to be honest I feel the same way about it as you did. I couldn't even really muster up a review for it.

Nigel said...

I didn't mind it. I noted its nonsense comedy a few minutes in, and I just decided to be tolerant of it.

I did enjoy the Coen's satirical representation of organized religion and suburban life.

I would also give it a C, or rather B- since I did have a few things to brag of.

Walter L. Hollmann said...

My favorite Coen Bros movie. Fred Melamed, who plays Sy Ableman, gave an interview in which he feels that the movie is done in a way that Larry Gopnik will feel nostalgic about when he's diagnosed with cancer, and this parallels with his son's pot/bar mitzvah shenanigans put into perspective by the twister. What this all means for the journey beforehand is beyond me, but I love it.

Anonymous said...

I have had trouble grappling with this movie for a long time. There were some very funny moments, but I didn't get any sort of cohesive narrative. The two previous Coen efforts were superior.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

strangely everyone seems to be on the same boat, save for walter: i'll have to mull over that point though. i will admit i'm not the biggest coens fan. for me, their best film is burn after reading

Alex in Movieland said...

totally disliked it! especially the first half.

but I do have to admit I liked the Cinematography! can't go wrong with Deakins