Pin It

A Serious Man 

If this film has a point, it's this: "Life is pointless, and so is this movie."

click to enlarge art14658.jpg

A Serious Man will be a serious challenge to many film-goers, even those who want more from movies than exploding robots. Aside from a cameo by Adam Arkin, it has no stars. It’s more philosophical than most moviegoers will have patience for. And if the film has a point, it’s this: “Life is pointless, and so is this movie. And if God exists, he’s a bastard who is either ignoring us or actively f------ with us.”

For this, we go to the movies? Well, yeah. If you like films that provoke thought and stimulate emotion, you’ll thrill to A Serious Man. In places, it’s droll but melancholy. In others, it’s hilarious yet heartbreaking. In all, it’s ironic but sincere. We could even call it “post-snark,” as if directors Ethan and Joel Coen (Burn After Reading, No Country for Old Men) are using the posture of sarcasm and satire to let us know they’re not kidding. They’ve got serious questions, serious concerns, and they’d like some goddamn answers from the management. (What they suspect, however, is that there are no answers and probably no management.)

The Coens express their angst through their new Job, physics professor Larry Gopnik, who, in 1967 Minneapolis, finds himself under metaphysical attack on all sides. His wife wants a divorce. His tenure at the university is threatened. His teenaged kids ignore him. Everywhere he turns, Larry is besieged — and New York theater actor Michael Stuhlbarg is so utterly sympathetic as Larry, so yearning for relief, that you can’t help but ache for him.

The film is semi-autobiographical, distilling the ethos and atmosphere of the Coens’ Midwestern childhoods in intellectual Jewish fashion. And it seems to me that right here, we may have the key to 2.6 h understanding the Coens’ entire oeuvre.

I’ve never studied the Torah, and I’ve never been terrorized by a rabbi who tells useless parables in the mistaken belief that this would make my troubles disappear. But at least now I get Barton Fink. I think…. (Rated R)


  • Pin It

Latest in Film


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri
Young Frankenstein

Young Frankenstein @ Bing Crosby Theater

Mon., Oct. 24, 7 p.m.

All of today's events | Staff Picks


More by Maryann Johanson

  • Horror Re-runs
  • Horror Re-runs

    Blair Witch can't capture the found-footage magic of the original
    • Sep 15, 2016
  • Casted Away
  • Casted Away

    The Wild Life abandons its Robinson Crusoe source material
    • Sep 8, 2016
  • Gun Show
  • Gun Show

    Jonah Hill and Miles Teller are armed and dangerous in the true story War Dogs
    • Aug 18, 2016
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • The Kids Aren't Alright

    Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children can't quite strike the balance between whimsy and darkness
    • Sep 29, 2016
  • More »

Top Tags in
Music & Film

indigo girls

spokane symphony

Readers also liked…

  • Where Are the Women?
  • Where Are the Women?

    A critic's year-long deep dive into the way movies portray half of humanity
    • May 12, 2016
  • Road Goes On Forever
  • Road Goes On Forever

    Widespread Panic's never-ending tour stops in Spokane for the first time since 1999
    • Mar 11, 2015

© 2016 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation