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A Serious Man
DVD disk
02.05.2010 By: J.A. Hamilton
A Serious Man order download
Director:
Coen Brothers

Actors:
Michael Stuhlbarg
Richard Kind
Fred Melamed

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
When it rains it pours and Larry’s life has by definition become a monsoon of punches hitting him one after another. In hopes of sorting out the chaos, he seeks council from three different rabbis on a journey of self discovery and clarity.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
For the most part, I enjoy the Coen Brothers’ work (FARGO, THE BIG LEBOWSKI, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN), though I will admit to missing BURN AFTER READING. On the one hand I can see what they’re trying to do with A SERIOUS MAN, and I’m sure this blatantly forward approach to a man down on his luck who questions the meaning of life and religion will be regarded by some as a coherent, visceral and even acceptable take on hitting rock bottom, but I found it over the top and little preachy.

Now I don’t know much about the Jewish faith and I’m not overly interested in Physics so Larry’s character didn’t exactly speak to me as loudly as it could have. I feel for the guy, I truly do, having your wife leave you sucks (and for your best friend no less) and add to that some “eccentric” neighbors, backstabbing co-workers and shameless students, and I’m surprised Larry didn’t go all FALLING DOWN on us. And then there’s Larry’s pathetic brother Arthur who’s as much a catalyst in this story as anything. I’d have snapped, killed his ass and buried him in the backyard, but that’s me.

I did enjoy the opening ten minute prologue set back in the day. Possession, evil spirits, curses (and whatever in hell a dybbuk is) are right up my alley, if only this film would have stayed on this path. Somewhere along the line this became a “black comedy”, and if by black comedy they meant your heart would have be ten shades of black to find this funny, then I might agree with you. There really isn’t much humor in Larry’s life, and a pledge to become less serious doesn’t up the ante. Now the score and visuals were incredibly calming at times, so much so that you could almost hear Larry’s inner turmoil and questions. Of course I thought he was enjoying the view a little too much on his roof when he was oogling his sunbathing neighbor. At least he got one break.

A SERIOUS MAN is an offbeat film that could very well put you in a dark place if you’re the kind of person who over-analyzes things or thinks too much. Thankfully I’m not one of those people so I was able to take it in stride. The ending, as well as the beginning I suppose are both there to be pondered and questioned and it’s clear that we’ll all have a different take on what we see. I don’t feel the punch was as hard as the Coens have hit in the past and I don’t feel the message is nearly as relevant or even as clear as I’d hoped for, but if you’re looking for a thought provoking drama this could be the film for you. At the very least, you too can oogle his neighbor.
THE EXTRAS
Becoming Serious: The Coen Brothers explain their thought process behind the film and its jaded context. Like Fargo, they admit to the wanting to use a true story in the beginning, but in this case didn’t know any true Yiddish folk tales.

Creating 1967: A look at how they made us believe it was the late sixties. Hey, the cars, the cloths, his TV antenna and those horned rim glasses all looked pretty legit to me. I’m convinced.

Hebrew and Yiddish for Goys: A two minute tutorial/explanation seminar with dictionary definitions of Hebrew and Yiddish terminology such as bar mitzvah. I thought everyone knew what a bar mitzvah was.

Previews: There are a handful of trailers as well reminding me I still have to watch SMOKING ACES 2.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
This flick does tackle some tough questions and is bound to trigger some raw emotional responses, but the “life sometimes kicks you in face, just deal with it” theme had me shaking my head. Add to that a mess of religious questions and you’ll either love it or hate it. This is no more than a rental.
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