Review 275: A Serious Man (2009)
I am fairly determined to see all of the Coen films that I can. A Serious Man ended up being one that I really liked a lot. At the end, I found myself asking “What’s going on,” and with some reading I realized that was the point. The main character, Larry Gopnik, constantly asks the very question I was left wondering at the end. It’s the Coen’s writing style at work asking deeper questions than the surface would suggest. I give A Serious Man the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.
Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) is a physics teacher that is watching his life spiral out of control. Many little things pile up to what seems like an insurmountable mountain of problems that leads him wondering what is going on. He seeks out spiritual guidance and legal assistance hoping to find out the meaning and answers to why he is going through what he is going through.
I really enjoyed Michael Stuhlbarg. He plays Larry perfectly. A man who seems capable, but extremely passive. He never seems to do anything and the world just kind of moves around him. We first meet Larry while he is explaining Schrödinger’s Paradox and that definitely seems to impart his philosophy on life. If he doesn’t do anything then he is both successful and a failure at the same time. He is guilty and innocent at the same time. Thus, he is free of responsibility, but reaps none of the benefits.
Larry’s biggest problem becomes his unhappy wife and her new suitor. Fred Melamed plays Sy who wants to marry Judith (Sari Lennick) after she and Larry divorce. It really is some of the most uncomfortable moments I’ve watched. This man has to sit and listen to the man who is stealing his wife tell him what’s best for everyone. He is forced to leave his home to stay at a hotel. It’s very tragic and yet the Coen manage to bring an air of humor to the whole thing. You feel bad for him and yet you see he isn’t doing anything to fix it either.
This film has the Coen feel that I find enjoyable. I hope some of the other films I’ve yet to see will resonate as well as this one. I love so many of their films and feel a little less so with some others. For every O’ Brother Where Art Thou there is another potential Lady Killers. If you are a fan of some of their other films I say give this one a chance.