Review

Harry examines A SERIOUS MAN and finds it thrilling!!!

Published at: Oct. 12, 2009, 3:56 a.m. CST by headgeek

I'm not Jewish. Most of my friends that are Jewish, never share the secret phrases and codes that are apparently common phrases within the faith and community. So as a Goy, I'm pretty much ignorant of the customs and practices of Jewish society. As a result, watching A SERIOUS MAN was a bit like watching A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, but if Alex was a middle-aged married man with two kids living in the suburbs and was tormented every bit as much as Alex... although a large amount of that torment was self-inflicted, self-loathing and based upon fear of his own religious practices. The lead character is Larry Gopnik, played by Michael Stuhlbarg - an actor that has appeared on Television, but certainly hasn't led a cast of a film of this quality, but in the hands of the Coen Brothers... he's absolutely the center of my attention from the second he appears, till his last shot. That's the power of the Coens. They craft films that perfectly frame and feature their lead characters in a world that makes them the center. This film, feels like the Coen Brothers are taking the piss out of being Jewish, while celebrating being Jewish and they show what it must've felt like to be Jewish at the time that they themselves were children. This feels like a fable, like a story they would tell their children, because... well they're the Coen Brothers and they can tell fables as great as this, as culturally resonant as this and as horrifyingly funny as this. It's pretty widely known that this is loosely based on the story of Job, but by no means does it adhere to that story's confines. Mainly because... well, you'll see the liberties they take. So - how bad does Larry have it? Oh - it most certainly sucks to be Larry. He's a physics professor at a university on the cusp of tenure. Apparently someone is writing letters to the committee that would grant him tenure, that suggest that he's not a good candidate - and possibly has done some wrong doing. He's got a bit of a complicated "Bribe" situation that he doesn't know quite how to deal with. His son has Television reception problems, Bully problems and a pot habit. His daughter wants to chop an inch or so off her nose and is stealing money for the procedure. His wife. Well, she wants a divorce - more importantly she wants a "Get" which is some manner of Jewish Divorce, that would keep her in good standing with the faith. And she puts it on him to get the "Get". This is not an easy thing to do. Seeing a Rabbi is tough. Getting a Rabbi to give you what you need... apparently harder. And everything... everything that I've stated gets infinitely more complicated with every passage of every reel. By the end of this film - you know - It's going to get far worse than anything that has happened in the film. And in many ways - it is absolutely Larry's fault for taking a step from the path of being A Serious Man. Which I think has something pretty serious to do with your standing with God. I've heard that Larry is somewhat modeled upon the Coen's own father. I hope he was luckier than Larry. I'm sure the character of Larry Gopnik is layered by many people that the Coens know. That this is a film painted with brushstrokes covering much of their life and their own understandings and interpretations of the Jewish faith. It is an exquisitely crafted film and the sort of movie that I can't wait to discuss with my friend, "The Jew." "The Jew" is one of my dearest friends. A great deal of our friendship covers poking fun at nearly everything explored in this film. Little commonalities & quirks that he shares with Larry Gopnik. And I'm betting that he's had every dream that the Coens have captured from the subconscious of Larry Gopnik. Now - I'm not saying you must have or know a friend of the faith to enjoy this film. You don't have to be Jewish to love the film. But it certainly wouldn't hurt. They will laugh at things you probably wouldn't catch. And afterwards... you'll have a pretty amazing conversation. In many ways, the film made me realize... I've got some reading to do, because I can more throughly torture my friend, "The Jew," with a greater understanding. And that is something very important to our eternal friendship. Regarding the film - the reason it is such a delight is that it is an introduction to so many things unfamiliar. From the various cultural references or the actors inhabiting pretty much every role. The best part? They're all absolutely perfect. The Bar Mitzvah is terrifyingly hilarious - and I hope it is one of the Coens'! I know I'm not revealing a lot about this film, but frankly... it shouldn't be revealed. Not that there are giant twists and turns - those are here, but frankly... every character is a delight to discover. And they shouldn't simply be written about, they should be taken in as the Coens intended. You need to discover this world, the decor, the schoolbus, the way they all talk. In many ways the film reminds me of PULP FICTION. It isn't as POP as that, but it is a created universe. It is a whole world that these characters inhabit - one that may figure into reality at some level - but certainly not my reality. It is their world and the most common feeling I have coming out of a Coen film is a feeling of gratitude. I'm so grateful to see a film so perfectly crafted. Films that every time out, I'm completely captivated by. And in many ways, each of their films become a touchstone to a different friend in my life. They make films that you enjoy with different friends, the same friends, new friends. But not Massawyrm. He doesn't like their films. Which just never fails to just BLOW MY MIND. But that's a whole other article for another day. For now, Go see A SERIOUS MAN!!!

Readers Talkback

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  • Oct. 12, 2009, 1:38 a.m. CST

    I'll see it

    by steele8280

    As soon as it comes out in Sweden...

  • Oct. 12, 2009, 1:45 a.m. CST

    It's all about being jewish!!! Jaheim!!

    by AshesOfDonnie

    even the Black Eyed Peas have joined the spirit!!! but yeah, I'm watching A Serious Man this week!!!

  • Oct. 12, 2009, 1:55 a.m. CST

    After Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, etc...

    by ReportAbuse

    Not to mention Mel Brooks and Woody Allen, you think we don't know from Judaism? If you're a Hollywood movie fan, you know from Judaism.

  • Oct. 12, 2009, 1:58 a.m. CST

    This goes out to Harrys one jewish friend...

    by StarchildAD

    Enjoy the spotlight. This will be the last.

  • Oct. 12, 2009, 2:01 a.m. CST

    A SERIOUSLY OVERRATED movie

    by lockesbrokenleg

  • Oct. 12, 2009, 2:17 a.m. CST

    great movie

    by georgecauldron

    The Coen brothers' most mature work to date. It's like there's a piece of each previous movie in ASM.

  • Oct. 12, 2009, 2:18 a.m. CST

    FUCK THIS SHIT RIGHT NOW

    by BADBOYBROM HC

    Michael Jacksons new song is released today, that's far more important than any movie, apart from the forthcoming THIS IS IT. I trust you'll all be out in force buying multiple copies. Hopefully this will go on to be the greatest selling record of all time.

  • Oct. 12, 2009, 2:23 a.m. CST

    Yes, Badboybrom HC....

    by Kirbymanly

    Roman Polanski is first in line at the record store.

  • Oct. 12, 2009, 3:53 a.m. CST

    Harry, Harry, Harry....$50/article....

    by GeorgeDorn

    99% of the time, I can figure out what you're trying to say--but it takes some work. Adding a good proof-reader to your writing would professionalize the hell out of your site. I'll do it. I swear I don't have anything else to do.

  • Oct. 12, 2009, 4:51 a.m. CST

    BADBOYBROM HC

    by poopsies

    are they paying you to talk about the MJ movie or what?

  • Oct. 12, 2009, 5:02 a.m. CST

    Harry, when you talk about "The Jew"...

    by V'Shael

    you sound like a certain Austrian, who was trying to tell the world about the root of all their problems. <p> Or a Khazakstani singing journalist. <p> Couldn't you have given him a name, even if it was a stereotypical name? I just think that somehow it would have been less offensive than saying "The Jew" every other paragraph. <p> There's just no way to be nice when speaking like. <p> "My friends, you know who's a really swell peace loving guy? The Jew. You know who's really smart with money? The Jew. You know who's secretly conspiring to rule the world through usury?" <br> Well, you get my point.

  • Oct. 12, 2009, 5:05 a.m. CST

    Michael Jacksons new song?

    by V'Shael

    What, is it like 3 minutes of silence? Or is it Thriller played backwards? (Because he's de-composing.) <p> (Rimshot)

  • Oct. 12, 2009, 5:41 a.m. CST

    V'Shael

    by HEADGEEK

    I know. But most times, Jeff brings it up first, while laughing. It is a way of speaking between this Gentile and this Jew. And it goes wildly inappropriate. But he also knows I'd be brutally honest and frank with him about the most personal of endeavors. He knows I care what he thinks, how he feels and what our relationship is and should be. I can't wait to attend his wedding and pass out cigars for "The Jew" - signed his friend, "You Fucker"

  • Oct. 12, 2009, 6:47 a.m. CST

    Massa hates Jews

    by YackBacker

    I'm kidding, of course, I just wanted to stretch my TB legs before the daily marathon. I'm looking forward to seeing this movie, as a Jew I will be able to laugh at all of the intended jokes. I may sneak a knish into the theater to make the experience wholly enveloping.

  • Oct. 12, 2009, 6:51 a.m. CST

    Harry

    by dancetothebeatofthelivingdead

    Is it possible that your grammar and ability to write something comprehensive is getting fucking worse? My God, just go back and re-read the shit before you send it out there in the world. <br> <br> Anyway, you started out the review talking about how you're not Jewish and don't understand all of the intricacies and details of Judaism. I thought, "WOW, great, a Harry review where he doesn't spend the whole time talking about himself or the Alamo Drafthouse. Alas, you brought in the unnecessary story about your Jewish friend and the review became all about you. <br> <br> Just review the fucking movies and take a fifth grade language class.

  • Oct. 12, 2009, 7:07 a.m. CST

    Massawyrm doesn't like the Coen's movies?

    by AsimovLives

    That's a complete fail! That dude lost even more credibility with me then the already little he had.

  • Oct. 12, 2009, 7:07 a.m. CST

    The most important question about A SERIOUS MAN is:

    by AsimovLives

    Will the nazis like it?

  • Oct. 12, 2009, 7:09 a.m. CST

    Michael Jackson can get fucked in the ass...

    by AsimovLives

    ... even after dead. Fuck that overrated painted face ministrel.

  • Oct. 12, 2009, 7:22 a.m. CST

    Looking forward to This film

    by tomcruise1

    Still gotta see it. http://sickpicks.blogspot.com/

  • Oct. 12, 2009, 7:36 a.m. CST

    AsimovLives wants a lot of men to get fucked in the ass

    by Chakraborty

    He reminds me of that German character from the Big Lebowski. "I fuck you!!!! I fuck you in your ass!!!! I fuck you!!!!"

  • Oct. 12, 2009, 7:53 a.m. CST

    once again...

    by mynemaborat

    like many of the coen movies, nobody would give a shit about this movie if it weren't for the unworthy praise they get from everyone, simply because its considered cool to be a coen bros fan these days. cos if you like the the coens then you obviously know alot about cinema... cos they're true masters... cos they don't do huge blockbuster movies... they haven't sold out... they're artists... right? wrong.

  • Oct. 12, 2009, 7:53 a.m. CST

    and massa doesn't like the coens?

    by mynemaborat

    pleasantly surprised by that

  • Oct. 12, 2009, 8:56 a.m. CST

    The problem with this film...

    by bingo the clown

    is that for the most part, it's pretty boring. Unlike, say, Barton Fink, which had an uninteresting character surrounded by interesting characters, this has an uninteresting character surrounded by other uninteresting characters. I'd put it on a level with The Man Who Wasn't There; it's well made and not as nearly bad as The Ladykillers (the Coen's worst film), but in a year I'll have forgotten pretty much everything about the characters and plot. I will say there are a couple of funny scenes near the end of the film, but it's not really worth watching the rest of the to get to them.

  • Oct. 12, 2009, 12:43 p.m. CST

    More than half of the Coen films were "the story of Job"

    by Anything But Tangerines

    Just because this film is the most blatantly Jewish, people suddenly make the connection. I challenge anyone to name 3 Coen films that don't involve somebody whose life goes to hell against all odds. The specific references are very few and far between in A Serious Man. I think the only difference here is that the said life-fucked character openly seeks help from God. What really makes A Serious Man "the most mature film yet by the Coens" is that it doesn't actually portray a murder. The only 2 potential murders in A Serious Man are in non-reality timelines and thus do not actually take place. This is a Coen Bros film without an actual murder in it, there's your headline.

  • Oct. 12, 2009, 12:49 p.m. CST

    BTW

    by Anything But Tangerines

    The story of Job has a huge "happily ever after" ending. The Coens don't seem to favor those.

  • Oct. 12, 2009, 2:23 p.m. CST

    For Mynemaborat

    by lucasdefender

    To suggest that everyone who enjoys Coens films are really pretending to like them to be 'cool', and not because one could actually, genuinely like a movie they've made is ridiculous. It denies credit to a pair of filmmakers that have somehow figured out a way to keep the film community interested in their material for decades now. Credit to filmmakers that have convinced many, that there is no genre that is beyond their capabilities. And of course, credit to a pair of filmmakers that have been awarded so many countless awards for so many of there films at so many ceremonies(including the oscars i.e. multiple screenplay awards, directing, picture, acting etc.) In other words, your words just do not measure up to the facts.

  • Oct. 12, 2009, 2:25 p.m. CST

    For Anything But Tangerines

    by lucasdefender

  • Oct. 12, 2009, 2:46 p.m. CST

    Whoops, For Anything But Tangerines

    by lucasdefender

    I am one that thinks this movie has much more and intentional correlation with Job than may be obvious. For in the first, Job had 3 friends that counseled him in his trials, and in the end of the story we see that these 3 friends counsel was declared by God to be worthless. In ASM, the Coens go out of their way to emphasize the 3 Rabbis from whom Larry receives worthless counsel. Second, throughout the book of Job the mantra of Job is basically that he didn't do anything wrong and therefore does not understand why God would make him suffer so. Of course, this is the discussion of ASM, right? Third, and perhaps the most profound movie twist for me- in the book of Job when God shows up (in a whirlwind-tornado) to reply to Job's questions, God does not answer Job's questions at all but rather presents Job with a series of even more impossible and troubling questions. This brings a very interesting connection between ASM and Job. In the end of ASM we have fears of a fatal disease. The tornado(whirlwind) shows up. We are in deep concern for our characters, and have big questions about the how the movie will resolve the big problems, the universal questions it has laid out- the end!! We are left bewildered. Call me wrong, but I dare say that this was the Coens intentional modern day Job, without the happy ending of course.

  • Oct. 12, 2009, 3:48 p.m. CST

    The Coen's are overrated.

    by Luscious.868

    They've made some good movies, but they've also made some shit. See The Ladykillers.

  • Oct. 12, 2009, 3:48 p.m. CST

    The Coen's are overrated.

    by Luscious.868

    They've made some good movies, but they've also made some shit. See The Ladykillers.

  • Oct. 12, 2009, 4:24 p.m. CST

    Is there unexpected violence in this film Harry?

    by SoylentMean

    Wait, no don't tell me, then I'll expect it. A new Coen Bros. movie means my but is in the theater. Can't wait to see it!

  • Oct. 12, 2009, 4:26 p.m. CST

    If the Coens are "overated"...

    by Skyway Moaters

    ... then every other film maker working today is as well.

  • Oct. 12, 2009, 5:59 p.m. CST

    Marijuana

    by Anything But Tangerines

    This is certainly the dope-est film yet from the Coens. F-Troop + weed = film career?

  • Oct. 12, 2009, 6:18 p.m. CST

    Every time I see the trailer for this I want to watch Barton Fin

    by SoylentMean

    True story. I ain't lyin' a pound, no sir, not one pound.

  • Oct. 12, 2009, 6:37 p.m. CST

    Barton Fink

    by SoylentMean

  • Oct. 12, 2009, 8:50 p.m. CST

    Luscious68

    by lucasdefender

  • Oct. 12, 2009, 9:01 p.m. CST

    Luscious68

    by lucasdefender

    You won't find a Ladykillers defender here or for that matter, even worse, Intolerable Cruelty. I do believe that they probably sold out for these movies and that sucks. But, when you say "they've made some good movies, you must mean that they've made MANY good ones, with some of them being Great! The Coens are responsible for: Blood Simple, Raising Arizona, Millers Crossing, Barton Fink, Hudsucker Proxy(woefully underrated and before its time), Fargo, Big Lebowski, O' Brother Where Art Thou?, The Man Who Wasn't There(fantastically underappreciated), No Country For Old Men, Burn After Reading, and their latest opus, A Serious Man. All I'm saying is that these guys are nothing less than some of the greatest filmmakers of all time. I am not lying, my conscience bears me witness, called it hyperbole and I will call it the truth.

  • Oct. 13, 2009, 12:05 a.m. CST

    Blood Simple

    by Hipshot

    Before it was released, there were "screener" tapes circulated around Hollywood. The consensus was that it was too funny to be so bloody. And too bloody to be so funny. Nobody knew what to do with it. but everyone agreed it was great.

  • Oct. 13, 2009, 8:42 a.m. CST

    UNREAL!!!!

    by MainMan2001

    This film is extremely brillant and has one of the most hauntingly brillant endings I have seen in years. It's a film that requires a number of viewings to completely appreciate it. Oh, yeah and Harry is simply put the worst reviewer I have ever read. I read his reviews because I want to see how bad they can get and that other asshole he mentioned who doesn't like the Cohen Brothers is a fucking retard who most be jealious or something because it doesn't make any sense whatsoever. The Cohen Bro make an amazing movie almost ever single time out. Oh, yeah his the moron who thought Zombieland was amazing. Zombieland is a complete and utter mediocre pieace of shit.

  • Oct. 13, 2009, 5:18 p.m. CST

    Actually, Lucasdefender...

    by Mostholy

    I'll stick up for INTOLERABLE CRUELTY -- I think it's really underrated and a great rom-com. Sure, it's Coen-lite, but it's still funnier than most movies around. (I can't say the same for THE LADYKILLERS.)

  • Oct. 13, 2009, 10:17 p.m. CST

    I think 'TheLadyKillers'...

    by cheyne_stoking_DMS

    can be excused when you have No Country and Fargo under your belt.

  • Oct. 16, 2009, 2:18 a.m. CST

    lol I like Harry's reviews

    by Spazatronik2000

    Kinda how I liked Paula Abdul as an AI judge. His reviews are better than the mainstream style, where they just write an over-long synopsis of the movie.

  • Oct. 21, 2009, 2:04 a.m. CST

    really?

    by maitlanr

    the elephant?<p> i was told not otherwise but like wise<p> some of you kids are fucking retarded<p>see bingo the clown for more information concerning a fact that does need repeating: that the talkbackers at AICN have some of the worst taste in film ever.<p> ladybugs was Rodney Dangerfield's best film<p> and i would fuck kathy bates circa Titanic.

  • Oct. 21, 2009, 11:42 p.m. CST

    What is there not to like

    by squarebird

    about The Lady Killers? The topplings into the garbage tow .. iconic.

  • Nov. 2, 2009, 10:23 a.m. CST

    It finally opened in Pittsburgh!

    by sruli

    This is my favorite Coen Brothers movie to date, and pretty much explains why I rebelled against the assimilated Judaism of my youth (now I'm religious - Shomer F***in Shabbes!). Honestly, I think most Jews will miss a lot of the jokes, too - it requires a very high level of Jewish literacy that most of us didn't get at home or school. We got yelled at in the theater for laughing so much - I don't think the Goy who yelled knew it was a comedy.

  • Nov. 7, 2009, 11:51 a.m. CST

    'perfectly crafted' except for the boom in the shot

    by Bagheera

    multiple times, very obvious. I didn't mind, I just thought it was funny.

  • Nov. 8, 2009, 2:29 a.m. CST

    Great movie, pitch-perfect black comedy, cool ambiguity in the e

    by Stifler's Mom

    by the way, Bagheera, a boom in the shot is the fault of the projectionist at the theater, not the filmmaker. Any film has book mikes visible when not framed properly by the projectionist.

  • Dec. 14, 2009, 12:01 a.m. CST

    incredible

    by briaher

    yet another perfect example of stupidity in the entertainment industry. "Uh, if Joel and Ethan made it, had to be brilliant." Le,,e save you all some precious time: this move is a festering piece of shit. Jewish or not. Nobody should pay for it. Even on cable, it'll be a waste. And I love the Coens. A lot. Barton Fink, Fargo, Miller's Crossing, Raising Arizona, Blood Simple. All genius. This is a waste of celluloid. And everyone will keep drinking the Kool Aid and say "Oh, those brothers are geniuses. No, I didn't understand a word, but that's because they're so pithy!" Fuck this movie. The Coens owe me my two hours back.

  • Feb. 15, 2010, 5:44 a.m. CST

    scUBqC

    by TmvEqK

    QiUqesbG <a href="http://oifabi.com/ ">scUBqC</a>

  • Feb. 15, 2010, 5:44 a.m. CST

    eRDokQMi

    by TmvEqK

    CdnpaT <a href="http://kuiizc.com/ ">eRDokQMi</a>

  • April 7, 2010, 4:37 p.m. CST

    Just a test

    by Mr.Stiggs

    test.<p> test.<p>