Pin It
Favorite

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)

Tags:

  • Pin It

Latest in Film

  • A Load of Scrat
  • A Load of Scrat

    Ice Age: Collision Course continues a franchise that keeps going only because it can
    • Jul 21, 2016
  • Cats and Dogs
  • Cats and Dogs

    The Secret Life of Pets is a pure joy of the imagination
    • Jul 14, 2016
  • Ain't Afraid of 
No Feminism
  • Ain't Afraid of No Feminism

    The Ghostbusters reboot dishes out laughs with a new team of ghoul chasers
    • Jul 14, 2016
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Thu | Fri | Sat | Sun | Mon | Tue
Korby Lenker

Korby Lenker @ Di Luna's Cafe

Fri., July 29, 8 p.m.

All of today's events | Staff Picks

or

More by Maryann Johanson

  • Cats and Dogs
  • Cats and Dogs

    The Secret Life of Pets is a pure joy of the imagination
    • Jul 14, 2016
  • Ain't Afraid of 
No Feminism
  • Ain't Afraid of No Feminism

    The Ghostbusters reboot dishes out laughs with a new team of ghoul chasers
    • Jul 14, 2016
  • Pointless Green
  • Pointless Green

    The latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is one long action-movie cliché
    • Jun 2, 2016
  • More »

Most Commented On

Top Tags in
Music & Film

Film


Review


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
  • The One Who Knocks
  • The One Who Knocks

    Why an Australian indie called The Babadook became one of 2014's creepiest films
    • Dec 17, 2014

© 2016 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation