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A Serious Man


A Serious Man (Coen Bros., 2009)
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Note - This was originally a response to TheUsualSuspect's review of the same film.

This is one of those films which really seems like it goes out of its way to throw people off with the beginning of the flick. No, it may not be as extreme as Citizen Kane's opening, but I'm sure it'll be a rough ride for many people unless they're in the proper frame of mind. I could be wrong, but it seems to be the most "off-putting" intro of any Coen film, so my idea is that when you FIRST THINK YOU want to turn off the film, just stop it. Go have a drink or take a walk or read for a few minutes or go Intenetting. When you're done and preferably have gone to the bathroom for whatever reason is appropriate, restart the movie at the beginning. It's better to try to understand how the golden-hued, curse-infested, guilt-tripped intro plays into the main character's world. I'm not saying that you'll like the movie any better, but you'll probably get why you should laugh occasionally (or more often) when this thing flashes forward to our "Serious Man" stuff.

Now, first off, this could all be a crock of BS (and I don't especially disagree with your rating), but the fact that the film is set in "the 1967" was perfect. I say that's when it's set because the media in the film implies it, but that phone call from Columbia House...Cosmo's Factory came out in 1970! Rather than look at that detail as a mistake, I choose to turn the film into a fantasy about a very "Serious" Jewish "Man" who is more into old ancient Jewish curses and God screwing with him than he is in trying to live with drugs, "modern music" ("I did not order Santana Abraxis. I do not want Santana Abraxis" HA!) "free love" and many other adult, everyday occurrences which apparently pass right by if they're too "serious" and/or "cursed" (such as say, what year is it now?)

I think the funniest scenes in the film probably are the most-embarrassing (and therefore the least-funny if they happened to you). I'm just under the impression that the more you understand about the Coens, the more you'd probably enjoy the film, if 'enjoy" is the proper word. Joel Coen was 12 and Ethan Coen was 9 in 1967, but if you think about Cosmo's Factory, Joel was already old enough to have been barmitzvahed. To me, this is one of the Coens' most-personal films, and I bet it contains as many OR MORE scenes based on their real lives as any of their others. So, for me, it's not that they're "on autopiilot", but that they feel they've earned the right to make a film which is just so personal, even if others hate it. And, as far as the actual ending goes, it certainly carries on the personal family curse motif (at least for the only person left in the family who will become sorta A Serious Man, but don't you believe that the later 1960s were full of disastrous tornadoes/sociial upheavals? You know, assassinations of politicians and civil rights leaders, the Vietnam War, Counterculture, Drugs, distrust of politics and the erosion of the "American Dream", etc.?

One extremely good thing that period (the late 1960s) had was a lot of films better than A Serious Man, but even so, I haven't decided between
and
. I'll give it the "official rating" tomorrow.