‘A Serious Man’ is a serious masterpiece from the Coen Brothers
Let me start this review off by letting you know up front it will be pretty biased. I absolutely love the Coen Brothers. They are by far my favorite directors and can do no wrong in my eyes (I was even able to find enjoyment in The Ladykillers!). Seriously though, all biased opinions aside, their latest effort, A Serious Man, is a work of pure genius.
A Serious Man takes place in Minnesota in 1967 and follows Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) as his life falls apart right before his eyes. Larry is a professor at a Midwestern university who happens to be up for tenure. As he’s waiting to learn the school’s decision, things begin to get hectic for him. His highly intelligent, but socially awkward brother, Arthur (Richard Kind), moves in and sleeps on the couch as well as hogs the bathroom, much to the dismay of Larry’s daughter, Sarah (Jessica McManus). At the same time, his marriage to his wife, Judith (Sari Lennick), gets rocky as Judith decides she wants to leave him for family acquaintance, Sy Ableman (Fred Melamed). At the local Hebrew school, Larry’s son, Danny (Aaron Wolff), is getting in trouble with both the school teachers and a fellow classmate. Oh, and this whole time, Larry has no idea what is going on, he’s just along for the ride.
With A Serious Man, the Coens do what they do best: make us laugh at things we shouldn’t. Although this film doesn’t consist any of the Coens typical cast members, it does deliver the typical laughs in a very dark comedic form. The film is fantastically written and beautifully directed, which comes as no surprise with Joel and Ethan calling the shots behind the camera. Many regular Coen characteristics come into play including a ridiculously insane hunting scene and an ending that causes your jaw to drop.
The film is perfectly cast with Stuhlbarg leading the way in an Oscar worthy performance. He is able to draw the audience in and cause you to feel for the character. He’s brilliant at portraying a middle aged Jewish man, whose life as spun out of control. Kind and Melamed stand out in nice supporting roles.
All in all, A Serious Man is the best film I’ve seen all year. If it were up to me, it would easily be the front-runner for best film this year, but may prove to be too dark for the Academy. With that being said, it should still get a best picture nod at the very least. The film clearly isn’t for everyone, which explains the limited release, but if you’re a fan of Joel and Ethan Coen’s earlier works, specifically films like The Man Who Wasn’t There and Barton Fink, you’ll definitely agree that A Serious Man is a serious masterpiece.