A Serious Man (2009)
Reviewed on 2010 December 21
This Coen Brothers film didn’t get a lot of love in movie theaters, but I had been wanting to catch it for some time and I finally got my chance last night. This is their warped take on the story of Job, and in it’s own way darker than Fargo. If you’re already miserable it’s too much and if you’re too happy you’ll chafe, but if you’re merely somewhat cynical it should be a good fit for you that night (this is not a daytime movie).
After a crazy and random opening, you realize the Coens are just getting warmed up. Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) is a professor who seems to have the American Dream, only to see it unravel faster than a cheap sweater. His wife Judith (Sari Lennick) doesn’t just want a divorce, she plans to leave him for Sy Ableman (Fred Melamed), one of the smarmiest, most annoying people you can imagine. His kids are both pieces of work: he has a daughter pining for a nose job and his son Danny (Aaron Wolff) is more interested in avoiding a beating from his pot dealer than getting ready for his bar mitzvah. And this is just the entry-level stuff. Things just keep getting worse, despite his turning to his rabbis and to HaShem Himself for answers.
This was one of the craziest things I’ve seen that didn’t come from David Lynch. The ending was abrupt, but that’s okay. It’s still Job circa 2009, and has much to say about the randomness of misery and suffering. Even when he’s too soft and I wanted him to dump his bowl of soup over Judith’s head and tell her to freaking go with Sy already, I felt sympathy for Larry. And being a Coen thing, there’s lots of tasty weirdness scattered throughout. Dybbuks. Dental messages. Gematria. All this and more, set to Jefferson Airplane and a key sequence with Jimi Hendrix.
Three chocolate morsels, but I warn you it’s not for everyone and you need to be in the right mood for it.