"A Serious Man"
Directed by The Coen Brothers.
Written by The Coen Brothers.
Starring Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Kind, Sari Lennick and Aaron
Release Year: 2009
Review Date: 10/9/09
I'll be frank--I don't know what to make of
the new Coen Brothers film "A Serious Man." Something tells me
I'm not going to be alone on this, either, because at least six
people walked out of our free showing last night halfway through the
film, and those that stayed until the end included two people who
booed the ending and one man who told a theater staffer that the
movie was "as cold as an iceberg."
At least I know what an iceberg is.
"A Serious Man" is about a man named Larry,
played by Michael Stuhlbarg, who has a family that appears to not
love him, a job that isn't going so well, and a life that appears to
be going nowhere. It's sometime in the past--I don't think the
year was ever spoken, so given the look of the film, maybe the 60s
or early 70s--and Larry is a high school professor. His wife
(Sari Lennick, in her first film) is done with their marriage, in
part because she's found a new love named Sy (Fred Melamed), and in
part because Larry won't kick his brother Art (Richard Kind) out of
This movie reminded me of the Coen boys'
"Intolerable Cruelty", mainly because like "A Serious Man", both
are quirky comedies that are either too quirky or not that funny.
With "A Serious Man", though, I am guessing that for certain people,
it might be great...and, many of those "certain people" are either
diehard Coen fans, film critics, Jews, or old people from the
Midwest. In fact, if any of you know of older Jewish film
critics, I'm betting they fucking loved this movie. The film
is so Jewish that even for me, someone who has a lot of Jewish
friends and has a decent general knowledge of Jewish culture, I
really didn't get some of the references to the Jewish faith.
Being Jewish and having a good handle on what some of this film
covers would have been a HUGE help in understanding the film,
whether I liked the material or not.
One thing that can't be argued--the film is
simply a joy to watch in terms of its cinematography. I mean,
it's beautiful. Location scouting would be a joy for the Coen
"No Country for Old Men", "A Serious Man" gets a perfect shot in
nearly all of its frames...the period (again, not sure what year
it's supposed to be, but it doesn't really matter) seems to be
captured just right, the casting guys have found another mix of
people and costumes that fit just right...in terms of look and feel,
this movie might be my favorite this year.
Which makes the story/plot/mission bit of
this film all the more confusing. I really have no fucking
idea what the goal here is, what the story is supposed to be, if
this is meant to be a series of life vignettes or something tied
together to be a story, why the prologue and the ending are so
vague, and what this adds to the Coen canon. I mean, I could
understand why people were walking out when they were...what is this
movie about?? And, at times, it's not even that funny, so the
idea of it being a black comedy is a little absurd!!
I was hearing the term "Oscar buzz" before
seeing this film, but now I have to admit that I think some critics
might be smoking crack. Please note that I still don't know
"Master and Commander" was nominated for Best Picture a few
years ago either, so don't count on me for knowledge!!
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard