Friday, January 1, 2010

"A Serious Man" - A dark comedy that lingers for days....

Directed and Written by : Joel and Ethan Coen
Starring: Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Kind, Fred Melamed

The Coen brothers bring the darkness to light again with this darker than normal (even for them) comedy about life and its struggles. Now you say - what can be interesting about that - we all have tests right?

Joel and Ethan have a brilliant way of making you see the horrible tragedy in Larry Gopnicks life (brilliantly played by Michael Stuhlbarg). Even though his obstacles are basic issues that you and I may face daily - the writers have a way of making them seem sudden, tragic and heart breaking. More than that - your feelings of sorrow for Gopnick for his horrible "luck" grows with every minute. You find yourself thinking "Poor guy! He doesn't deserve this!".

That is where the Coen brothers get you. Deserving? Maybe not. But that's not what this movie is about. As Larry's life slowly starts to unravel, his Faith is what he turns to. But does he leave it to Faith or does he question his Faith and what is happening to him? Larry at times seems to be looking for not only solace in his Faith but also a reason for what is happening.

The movie is overflowing with the tenants of his Jewish faith. The movie even opens with a flash back of an old Yiddish speaking couple - very culturally old world orthodox Jewish. Throughout the film - Yiddish terms are intermingled in the script - and the audience has to figure out what they mean. From Larrys own meetings with various Rabbis, to his son's journey to his Bar Mitzvah and his first meeting with the eldest Rabbi. Its a very similar journey for them all, no matter what state of turmoil their life is in.

The cast of family, friends and Religious leaders are wonderful support for this movie. The most memorable performances were Sari Lennick as Judith Gopnick - Larrys unhappy wife. She is hilarious as the cold, staunch and unemotional Jewish wife who has his mind made up. Also Fred Melamed and Richard Kind play wonderfully hilarious side characters who practically steal the show at times. Overall an incredibly strong cast of characters - all the way down to the son Danny (played by Aaron Wolff, who was great for his age and the subject matter.

Does Larry find religious meaning and solace from his tests? Do things get better for him? Well if it did - it wouldn't be a Coen Bros film, now would it? I can tell you that this movie wasn't excellent for me right away. This movie takes some time to absorb. You need to take it and apply it to see where they are going with the main idea. The ending is so sudden, so final and so depressing (to some) that you will have to marinate on it. There IS a deeper meaning - you just need to find it.

And if you cant find it - then you truly cant appreciate the depth and darkness that Joel and Ethan Coen have reached in order to bring their vision to the public.

Rating: **** Four stars - VERY good - a must see!

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