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Friday, February 19, 2010

A Serious Man

2009 106 minutes
Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Kind, Fred Melamed
Written and Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
***.5 out of ****

The Coen brothers unleash chaos on the unsuspecting title character of their latest film, A Serious Man. The people in Larry Gopnik's quaint, 60's suburban Jewish life push him around to the point of exhaustion, every hope he has seems to be dashed, and his prospects look, at best, dim. The Coen brothers comically probe Gopnik (Stuhlbarg, in a performance of wonderfully slow-burning plainness) like a doctor's fingers poking around in misery, yet the film becomes unexpectedly poignant and universal. In his overwhelming normalcy, Gupnik and his problem's are as easily identifiable as the central question of the film: Why do things happen? This musing is capped by one of the most memorable closing images in recent memory, one that suggests that the cursed and the blessed will all share the same fate...or maybe it suggests something else. While the setting and subject matter suggest this is deeply personal material for the Coens, they have done a good job of making a film that is ponderously relatable and uncomfortably hilarious.

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