Sunday, November 8, 2009

Movie Review - A Serious Man or Why I love the Coen Brothers

So I think it was about a month ago, I was procrastinating from writing in my normal fashion which involves watching movie previews. I watched a preview of A Serious Man, the latest "comedy" to come from the Coen brother's collective lovely brain. Of course I'm excited because it looks weird, which is usually a good thing coming from the bros, but unfortunately I have some time to kill until its limited release in my fair city.

So what's a girl to do? I could write...but instead decide to look up the top ten movies on writers with writers block. Maybe it will inspire me? And it does but not in the predictable way of I don't know actually getting around to writing, but instead the list provides a sign, as the first movie in the top ten list is Barton Fink. Described as a comedic classic from the Coen brothers. I love to laugh so I decide to watch it and in the process remember a few things I forgot about the bros comedy movies.

They are not funny in any slap stick sort of way but funny like David Lynch is funny, which he is not, it is more like a laugh in your head because it was some of the best written witty dialogue you just experienced in fuck forever probably. And you forgot how clever the bros are. You also forgot the violence; like as if anyone can forget that woodchipper scene in Fargo; no, of course not, but ironically we all collectively remember Fargo as being funny. Maybe for the strange Minnesota accents or in David Lynch terms, like when the log lady comes on the scene and you have to laugh because everything else before this moment was kind of macabre. And lastly you forget how damn good the directing is. Joel Coen is a god when it comes to the directing (not dissin' Ethan or anything, he is godly in his own way!), but Joel, the narrow angles the music the pacing, it is right out of the textbook "how to create a suspenseful moment in film." I'm in awe of Barton Fink, and I'm glad I don't have the problems that writer does. But then I'm hooked and I need to all of sudden watch every Coen brothers movie I haven't seen yet. Which I will admit, there isn't a lot I haven't seen.

Next up Miller's Crossing and then Intolerable Cruelty. Both wonderful in their own way for mostly the same reasons mentioned above. And it is at this moment I remember I'm writing about A Serious Man.

It is about a Jewish physics professor, Larry Gopnik, who goes through a string of stressful events, that singularly probably wouldn't be so bad but of course happen all within the span of a couple of weeks. Based on the experiences of the bros growing up in a Jewish suburb in Minnesota. Not literal experiences but more like the metaphorical/symbolic kind of experiences; impressions left on the mind of the child and now portrayed in film, 50 some odd years later by the adults who lived them. Similar kind of realism as Mad Men is to the sixties.

The movie also comments considerably on religious Jewish culture. Which I can't say I'm the expert on, but know a little about, as my partner is Jewish; however, he is secular, so really I don't know a hell of a lot. But I could follow the movie and it worked.

While Larry is slowly going through the process of a breakdown he visits three rabbis to solicit advice on making sense of what is happening to him. Kind of like getting some expert opinion on why god is doing this to him. I don't want to say more than this about the plot because I don't want to detract from the full bodied viewing experience you will receive from opening scene to end credits. But suffice to say, another brilliant piece we can now add to the Coen brothers cannon.

So if you are lucky enough to live in a city that is showing this movie, go now, because god knows some awful piece of Hollywood trash is soon to take its place this coming Friday. The good ones always die so young!

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