A Serious Man

[Screenshot]The Coen Brothers have two basic modes. They have gritty realistic frequently bloody works like Fargo and Blood Simple and No Country For Old Men, and they have works piled high with circumstantial weirdshit and/or outright fantasy like The Hudsucker Proxy and The Big Lebowski and O Brother Where Art Thou?. The latter often has this vaguely paranoid touch, as if some cosmic entity or conspiracy is engineering tribulations for whatever unlucky everyman is the protagonist of this particular film.

That having been said, A Serious Man is the Coen formula in the particular mold of ’60s Jewish-American life, which adds a certain wrinkle: previous Coen protagonists have been drifters and convicts and naïfs, disinclined to try to attach a purpose to their sufferings, but a middle-class American Jew is a different kettle of fish philosophically, and much more energy is spent on why trouble rains down on Gopnik than they usually devote to it, and the lack of a satisfactory answer is probably intentional, both from a philosophical and a film-structure viewpoint: Judaism has a process for answering questions, which is no guarantee of actual satisfactory answers.

This is a moderate departure from the Coens’ usual surreal-mode fare, but recognizably of the same genus. If you like Coen Brothers films, or like put-upon Jewish Americans, this will please. They capture the era and the society well, and layer over it their own special brand of wacky.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.


About Jake
I'm a mathematics professor at the University of Louisville, and a geek.

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