Sunday, March 21, 2010

Film: A Serious Man

It's taken me a while to catch up on my list of Oscar nominated films, but the other day I finally had the chance to see the new Coen brothers movie, A Serious Man. With their typically dark and satirical humor, Joel and Ethan Coen head back to their roots in this film to great success. Set in the late 1960s in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, a Jewish suburb of Minneapolis where the brothers actually grew up, the film follows a Job-like character who, despite the many misfortunes and complications that arise in his life, tries to be a "serious" man and to find meaning in his suffering.

In contrast with other Coen brothers movies, the plot is simple, consisting of a series of unfortunate events heaped on the shoulders of a bespectacled and befuddled Larry Gopnik, a Jewish mathematics professor awaiting a decision from his tenure committee at the college where he teaches. Throughout the film, Larry attempts to deal with his impending divorce, his wife's overly-intimate lover, his brother's leaking cyst, his trouble making son about to be bar mitzvahed, all on top of a quickly dwindling bank account and an ever-mounting sea of troubles.

The simplicity is deceptive, however, for the film hides a subtle depth in its relation to the Job story from the Bible. In the midst of his grievances Larry turns to his Jewish faith for meaning, facing a slew of quirky personalities in his search for spiritual guidance.
In this way, Larry's trials not only provide some wonderfully clever humor, but simultaneously express sincere frustrations as to the nature of faith.

In my opinion, the best part of this film is the amusing, puzzling, and profound ending only the Coen brothers can conjure. But I won't spoil it for you. Go see this film for yourself. It's fantastic!

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