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Movie Review: A Serious Man

Alternate Title: Accept the Mystery

Story: Larry Gopnick is a righteous man. He works hard, helps people and tries to do the right thing - so why is his life falling apart? This is the 14th film by Joel and Ethan Coen and it is terrific.

Larry's life is like the biblical character, Job. Despite his efforts, the walls are crumbling around him. His teaching tenure is tenuous, his wife abruptly asks for a divorce, his mentally unbalanced brother sleeps on his sofa, money woes are mounting, his crazy neighbor seems threatening to his life and property, his about to be Bar Mitvah'd son smokes too much pot and his teenage daughter longs for a nose job. What's a fellow to do?

Larry carries an everyman status and while this film is very Jewish in tone and content, Larry's 'everyman' will cross cultural boundaries. He consults three Rabbis for answers and along the way we get some riotous cockamamie tales, parables and sudden twists.

They say this is somewhat of a memory piece for the Coen Brothers as they were raised in a Jewish suburb of Minneapolis. I don't know from Minneapolis, since I was raised in Brooklyn, but I was able to recognize most of these characters.

This is a typical Coen Brothers film where there is no tidy ending. I liked the abruptness of the ending and could not think of a better way to end this film. The Coen Brothers also hand us some unforgettable lines during the movie and the last line of the end credits had me laughing out loud. For those that leave the film before the end credits, they state ' No Jews were harmed in the making of this film.' I don't know about most Jews, but this Jewess thoroughly enjoyed this latest Coen Brothers film.

Does it help to be Jewish to enjoy this film? It couldn't hurt. Will the Coens answer the question as to the nature of the human condition? Don't ask. When your life is going to the crapper and you ask 'Why me'? The answer of course is, 'Why not you'. Sit back and enjoy the ride.

Watch the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tcUTv3LH3ss

Acting: Michael Stuhlbarg as Larry Gopnik is pitch perfect. I cannot think of anyone else who could have done this role better. Bravo. Richard Kind as Uncle Arthur was sheer brilliance. Fred Melamed as Sy Ableman was fabulous. Sari Lennick as wife, Judith hit every mark. Adam Arkin as the straight laced Divorce Lawyer was perfect. Aaron Wolff as 13 year old Danny was hysterical. Jessica McManus as the sister, Sarah Gopnik, had a smaller role but was great. The entire ensemble cast was terrific.

Trivia: Ethan Coen graduated from Princeton University. At Princeton, tried to explain a missed deadline by saying that he had lost one of his arms during a hunting accident. He worked as a statistical clerk at Macy's before setting off to make Blood Simple. (1984). Joel Coen used to receive sole credit as director for the Coen brothers movies', but has always directed films with his brother Ethan Coen (they also write and produce their films together). This was changed with The Ladykillers (2004), and now they both receive credit for directing and producing. In his childhood, he saved money from mowing lawns to buy a Super-8 camera. Roderick Jaynes, who is credited with editing all of his films, does not, in fact, exist. The name is a pseudonym for Joel and his brother Ethan.

Predilection: I am a big fan of the Coen Brothers.

Critters: None

Food: Considering it was a Jewish home, food was not a big player.

Sex Spectrum: Some fantasy sex.

Blatant Product Placement: None

Soundtrack: A terrific soundtrack from cantorial music to the Jefferson Airplane.

Opening Titles: A short sequence that takes place in Poland, maybe 150 years ago with a tale a out a dybbuk. The opening credits follow this sequence.

Visual Art: Kudos to the director of photography, Roger Deakins. He made this 1967 town outside of Minneapolis picture perfect.

Theater Audience: About 20 other people.

Weather: Minneapolis was surprisingly lovely in June.

Sappy Factor: 0

Quirky Meter: 0

Squirm Scale: 0

Drift Factor: I paid attention throughout.

Predictability Level: I was not sure what was going to happen.

Tissue Usage: 0

Oscar Worthy: Why not?

Big Screen or Rental: Big screen for sure. Here are the 14 Coen Brothers films for you to see/rent. Blood Simple, Raising Arizona, Miller's Crossing, Barton Fink, The Hudsucker Proxy, Fargo, The Big Lebowski, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Man Who Wasn't There, Intolerable Cruelty, The Ladykillers, No Country for Old Men, Burn After Reading, A Serious Man

Length: Under two hours.