A Serious Man (2009)
Critic Consensus: Blending dark humor with profoundly personal themes, the Coen brothers deliver what might be their most mature -- if not their best -- film to date.
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as Larry Gopnik
as Uncle Arthur
as Sy Ableman
as Judith Gopnik
as Mrs. Samsky
as Rabbi Marshak
as Divorce Lawyer
as Shtetl Husband
as Shtetl Wife
as Mr. Brandt
as Mitch Brandt
as Rabbi Scott
as Clive Park
as Danny Gopnik
as Sarah Gopnik
as Arlen Finkle
as Dr. Sussman
as Rabbi Nachtner
as Solomon Schultz
as Danny's Reefer Buddy
as Mike Fagle
as Hebrew School Teache...
as Dr. Shapiro
as Hebrew School Teache...
as Clive's Father
as Cop #1
as Larry's Secretary
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Critic Reviews for A Serious Man
The Coens may play around with that tradition, they may disparage it or mock it. But they are irrevocably a part of it, and that's all to the good.
If you're puzzled by the Coen Brothers' horrific comedies, this is the closest thing you'll get to an explanation.
It's methodical, distancing and sarcastic, like all of their movies. And like all of them, it's exciting cinema, "eminently watchable," as one of its characters would say.
This might be the Coen Brothers' best film. I suspect they think so too. Even if you sense they can't quite grasp what they've stumbled across here, and surely don't want to.
For all the droll wit on display, it's hard to warm to the Coens' chilly parable. Is Larry's suffering the work of God or the Devil, or just the random chaos of an indifferent universe? Arch-ironists to their fingertips, the Coens aren't telling.
Audience Reviews for A Serious Man
The Coen brothers chose the perfect actors for this hilarious farce, their most personal work to date, which splendidly combines dark humor and Jewish existential questions, and I can easily imagine them saying that, if not even God gives us all the answers, why the hell should they?
After a really interesting and haunting prologue, this film is a 90 minutes collection of uncomfortable situations for the protagonist and viewer that fails to get a point across, produce laughter or even entertain on any level. Maybe you have to be Jewish to appreciate the character's struggle. I can safely say that I simply didn't get it. Shocking, that this came from the Coen Brothers.
I've watched it a few times now, and even though I still don't have it all figured out (as if one is even supposed to), things become a little less hazy with each viewing. This is a great type of film to discuss long after it has ended.
The Coens have made some strange and off-the-wall films, but this one may just take the cake. In terms of style, it most closely resembles The Man Who Wasn't There. That was their most serious film. This one is also quite serious, and very dark, but there's still some humor, much like how No Country For Old Men had humor, even if it was subtle. Had I understood more of the references, I probably would have found it even funnier, but as it stands, I still laughed a bit throughout, even if I did so in an awkward and uneasy way.
Some of this film escaped me, as I am not Jewish, but, as a Catholic, I found myself relating to some things, as Catholic guilt and Jewish guilt are very similar, and the interactions Larry has with the Rabbis are similar to things I've experienced from being Catholic.
This is an odd and awkward film, but I think that's why I liked it. It's not so obtuse and out there in a David Lynch kind of way, but this is definitely a film for a limited audience. One reviewer on here (hypathio7) called it the New Fiddler on the Roof- something that actually fits quite well. I see it as a loose take on The Book of Job, but Fiddler works too.
The look of this film is just fantastic. Aesthetically and with the decor and stuff...wow...big noses, huge glasses...the hairstyles....the clothes...the cars...everything is top notch. They nailed the look of the late 60s perfectly. The music rules too, I love that Jefferson Airplane figures prominently into things, and works as a pay off to a great joke.
As should be expected, the writing, direction, and camera work are top-notch. Some have said that this is the type of movie you get to make after winning an Oscar. I agree. Burn After Reading was done after they won the Oscar, but after that, the Coens went all in on this, and as a result, have created one of their most astounding, meaty, and thought provoking films.
The performances are dynamite, and I like that the two most well known actors in the film are only like medium well known in the mainstream (Kind and Arkin). It was fun seeing Lerner in a brief cameo too (he has previously worked with the Coens for those who didn't know). Using unknowns for the rest of the cast was an excellent decision. I hope to see them in more films in the future.
Drawing on the counterculture, many aspects of Jewish culture and religion, personal experiences (although this film is not autobiographical), math and physics, and a ton of other stuff, this film is some heavy shit, but it's not ponderous, pretentious, or boring, even if it is rather slow. Yeah, it's not for everyone, but for those that can get on the wavelength, there is a lot of greatness to be found here.
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