Review: A Serious Man

A movie that I’m sure critics will love but as far as entertaining me with a  sense of purpose, story and feeling…yeah, didn’t happen.

I love me some Cohen brothersRaising Arizona, Big Lebowski, Fargo, No Country for Old Men.  With very few missteps (I’m looking at you Ladykillers), these guy usually hit it out of the park without sticking to any one particular genre.  So I went in to seeing A Serious Man with the expectations that even though there are no big stars in it, not a single commercial on TV, nor an ounce of action or violence, it would probably be still worth checking it.  It’s the freaking Cohen Bros!

A Jewish man (normally I wouldn’t mention the religion but it’s a big part of the story) is having a run of bad luck and the stress is mounting.  His wife is cheating on him, he’s up for tenure, his kids are jerks, his brother is in trouble…  It’s a lot for a guy to handle.  So he seeks the advice of three rabbis on what he should do.

What did I just watch?  Ever ask yourself that coming out of a movie theatre?  Well that’s what I’m getting – What did I just watch?  It’s not a comedy, it’s not a drama, it’s not much of anything really.  It just is.  Now, there are some slice-of-life movies I just love like Happy Go Lucky and Nobody’s Fool.  A chance for us to get a glimpse of these characters in their daily lives.  The difference though is that in those movies I mentioned vs. A Serious Man, I actually liked the main character.  This was not that movie.

Don’t get me wrong, everyone was good.  You could certainly feel the dad (Michael Stuhlbarg) was losing it as he was put into stressful situation after stressful situation.  Richard Kind as the troubled brother and Adam Arkin as the lawyer were also really, really good.  You’ll notice I’m not jumping all over a thesaurus to find words to better describe the movie.  It’s probably because the movie left me with little excitement, exuberance, enthusiasm, gusto or eagerness to explain the lead character’s plight.  His life was crap and I didn’t much care.

To be fair, perhaps if I had grown up in this era or were more religious (or at all) I would have gotten more of the references or allusions to the bible.  It all just left me wishing there had been a better movie to go to at the theatre.

2 stars – it’s a renter.The story is ok.  There are funny bits.  It’s well acted.  With all that, I still can’t bring myself to recommend it even for renting…but I can’t say it’s crap.  So if you find NOTHING else to rent at the video store, give it a whirl.

Coming Attractions:
AvatarJames Cameron is back with no cruise liner or Schwarzenegger in sight.  The director of Titanic and the good Terminator movies has returned with a very CGI focused action story with a message. The trailer is a bit long, giving away too much (what else is new) but the effects from the guy that always seems to push the technology envelope is amazing.  Soak it in.

Randomly Recommended
The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001) – one of the great things about writing this blog is I get to rediscover movies I haven’t seen in years.  This is one of them.  Sticking with the Cohen brothers’ movies, I first suggest checking this one.  Bill Bob Thornton is a barber who is always in the background, and likes it that way.  Well until he decides to shake things up by getting involved in blackmailing his wife’s lover.  It goes to hell from there.  But in a good way.

Miller’s Crossing (1990) – a mobster movie that is as good as anything directed by Martin Scorsese.  Gabriel Byrne, Albert Finney and John Turturro are fantastic in this depression era flick that builds tension between two mob families until someone has to get a bullet in the back of the head.  Oh yeah, I said it.  The scene in the forest has to go down as one of the best in film history.

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  1. The “slice of life” genre, as you put it, is one that I rarely entertain. Mainly because when I choose to take a couple hours out of my time not spent sleeping or working, i want to be entertained. This genre tends to be more challenging than entertaining. If I want to follow a mediocre character navigating numerous challenges with little to no success…I have my own life.

    Art is meant to challenge us to think differently about our lives and how we live them, however if they key objective for the creator is for the art to be consumed (as opposed to creating for the sake of creation), then it must be interesting. Characters must either be likable or fascinating.

    Based on what I knew of this film and its’ story, I probably wasn’t going to watch it. Based on what I know now, the next time I feel the need for mind surrendering entertainment I’m going to watch No Country for Old Men for the third time.

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