Thursday, 29 October 2009

Review: A Serious Man

Year: 2009
Directors: The Coen Brothers
Screenplay: The Coen Brothers
Starring: Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Kind, Fred Melamed

Synopsis is here

What to say about the brothers Coen? Well they are predictable at being unpredictable and after the lackluster films of Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers, the brothers grim have hit back with what I consider an incredible run of form. The daft Burn after reading, The Somber No country for old men and now, the nihilistic A serious man, a film which reminds us that we may not know all the answers in life but even so it might be best to stay on the safe and narrow.

Not that the film helps in anyway, as the lead character is tossed from pillar to post, from disaster to disaster with nothing to help him expect his glum face. Larry never complains, but is always looking for help or the answer. With nothing forthcoming he finds his life slowly spiraling out of control with nothing to guide him except the will to ride it out. He questions his faith and god but maybe god doesn't wish to busy little questions like what does it all mean? I may be completely wrong about this. I've read some interesting theories about the film on the imdb. But the coen brothers film is so strong in it's direction it could absorb any of the theories presented.

I say this because the Coen's (bastards that they can be) aren't very communicative with straightforward answers. the film's message is clearer with the viewer having a good grasp on not only the book of job and quantum physics, but the Coens also know that not everyone will have those topics easily stored within their head and so the Coen still manage to keep the film entertaining, compelling and GOD DAMN FUNNY, without losing sight of the audience. Although some more mainstream audiences will hope for a "clearer"conclusion, but the clues are there and those who keep close watch should be completely satisfied.

Where is god...everywhere? Nowhere? The film likes to straddle both ideas, it also plays on the idea that bad things can quite simply happen to the best of us, because it can. We are constantly being told how everything will work out, or how we're special but maybe.....just maybe...this isn't true. One of the things I stated was how nihilistic the film appears to be from my viewpoint I'm right but with others it can come across as sad, it's a film that allows you to bring much to the table.

A Serious Man is also a film that riffs on the past Coen themes of old. Constantly toying with the topics of heaven and hell as well as the circular aspects of fate that's appeared in the last two movies. At one point Stuhlbarg's Larry almost becoming a spitting image of Barton Fink halfway through the film. In fact of all the Coen's films A serious man to me feels like a great companion piece to the 1991 film.

The entire film is encapsulated by it's lead. We've been reminded about great Coen performances by more known actors but the central turn by stage actor Michael Stuhlbarg is one that will enter the grand halls of Lebowski and H.I. The character is an amusing comic creation of helplessness. It's a complex role that ponders the question of being assertive against committing sin. His eyes constantly searching for guidance from a faith that appears to enjoy procrastination than actual help.

But maybe they are helping? The best thing about the ever confident Coen's direction is how rich and layered the story is told. A Serious Man is about everything and nothing at the same time. it's about our struggle with faith and how our incessant need for clear and concise conclusion. But The film also says that maybe, just maybe....we're better off not worrying those mysterious big questions, because they're supposed to be mysterious for a reason.

Hear me talk more about this movie at Geekplanetonline