Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Serious Man - DVD Review


Starring Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Kind, Fred Melamed, Sari Lennick, Aaron Wolff, Simon Helberg and George Wyner.
Directed by Joel & Ethan Coen.

The movie's credits started to roll, and my head filled with questions. I went to the DVD extras seeking insight, and I got less than I expected. Maybe the movie isn't really saying anything grand after all.

Michael Stuhlbarg is Larry Gopnik, a put-upon physics teacher whose life starts falling apart, and he can't understand why. His wife wants a divorce, his kids don't respect him, he might not get tenure at his school, a Korean student is trying to bribe/blackmail him. "But I haven't done anything!" is his lament, and in a way, it seems to be what the Coens think God is saying to the people on Earth.

Larry searches for answers and goes to three rabbis looking for help. The first two offer empty advice, parables with no purpose. It boils it down to "there are no real answers," and the third rabbi is too "busy" to speak to him. The Coens are the God of this universe, and they keep telling their Job stand-in: "We're going to keep making bad things happen to you and not tell you why."

While Stuhlbarg gives a great lead performance, and there are other amusements to be had, but the usual knocks against the Coens, primarily their lack of humanity toward the characters they move around on their chessboard, is on full display. The script also has the same tone-deafness of The Ladykillers in thinking swear words are their own punchline. The point is that there's no point, and as such, it's a pointless movie, which makes me feel bad for Stuhlbarg after the closing credits run.

Where a climax and ending should have been.

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