A Serious Man
Spring 2010 Features series
Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 4:00pm
Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 7:00pm
Directed by Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Screenplay by Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Starring Michael Stuhlbarg, Fred Melamed, Richard Kind, Sari Lennick, Aaron Wolf, Jessica McManus
Rated 14A ·
United States, United Kingdom, France
English, Yiddish, Hebrew
Joel and Ethan Coen are at the top of their game, equally at home in serious drama and madcap comedy, working with the biggest stars in the world or unfamiliar talent. Hot on the heels of No Country for Old Men and Burn After Reading, they’ve switched gears again to deliver a pitch-perfect comic drama that takes them back to their roots in Minnesota – a place they haven’t shot in since 1996’s Fargo. Dry, hilarious and gloriously absurd, A Serious Man takes the Coens all the way back home.
It’s 1967: Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) wants to be taken seriously, but he’s assailed on all sides by disrespect. At home, his children steal from his wallet and his wife pesters him for a divorce. She has fallen for their hippie-styled friend Sy Ableman (Fred Melamed) and his empty, feel-good mantras. Worse, Larry’s unemployed brother has annexed his couch and the family’s only bathroom. And it’s no better at work. Larry’s up for tenure at his college but a disgruntled student threatens to sabotage his reputation. Desperately clinging to his sanity, Larry seeks counsel from the wise and elusive Rabbi Nachtner (George Wyner). But to get to Nachtner, he has to endure the First Rabbi, and then the Second.
Working with a crack team of actors drawn from Yiddish theatre, the Coens keep the story driving forward and the complications piling up. Blessed with a cosmic sense of life’s absurdities, A Serious Man is sharp, precise and superbly structured. Even the contrast of cinematographer Roger Deakins’s composed images and the story’s increasing chaos is held in perfect balance. But above all, this is a philosophical cry to the heavens, told in sophisticated schtick.