«A Serious Man»: The directorial tandem of the Coen brothers (older Joel and younger Ethan) has firmly taken place under the cinematic sun. For their films, as well as original / adapted scenarios for them (Fargo, Barton Fink, The Big Lebowski and No Country for Old Men), the brothers were more than once treated by the jury of the most prestigious film festivals and film forums: Golden Globes, Oscars, British BAFTA and even the Golden Palm of the Cannes Film Festival. That is why each new film of this couple of Jewish intellectuals is of great interest, without loud advertising and marketing media campaigns. In the 90-s the Coen brothers started to produce their own films, so now they do not need to curry favor with potential sponsors; they are free to make films the way they want.
The drama «A Serious Man» was released in 2009 and, in general, did not cause much excitement, unlike the previous works of the fraternal duet — the black crime comedy «Burn After Reading» and thriller «No Country for Old Men «. However, this is easily explained — the complete absence of stars and the format of the psychological-social drama with obvious religious overtones (unusual for the Coens) scared off the usual audience, leaving only room for regular fans of their work. However, this time Clooney and Pitt’s fees did not inflate the budget, which amounted to a meager $7,000,000. The film paid for itself quite easily at the box office. Once again proving that any work of Coen brothers, even the most eccentric or deeply personal, brings to its creators not only awards and respect from critics, but also quite tangible bucks.
«A Serious Man» pretends to be a very simple and unsophisticated story. At first glance, we face the usual burdensome and boring life story of a Jewish intellectual, a college professor Larry Gopnik. We find Larry in a period of global, from his point of view, changes — his wife «suddenly» leaves him, the children completely fend off, the boss threatens to fire him and the state police may send his strange brother Arthur to jail.
All these problems open before the eyes of Larry suddenly, like a bolt from the blue. As if testing his «happy» and calm life. Unable to cope with all miseries alone, the professor, being a rational member of the Jewish community, is seeking salvation in religion. However, it turns out that the wise rabbis and the Torah cannot always help. Because if a question contains an answer, then why ask it at all?
In general, the film “A Serious Man” is one big rhetorical Question, which in modern interpretation sounds like “Are we alone in the Universe?” The main mistake of the viewer (and the main character) is an attempt to find the answer to this question. The bottom line is that the Coens quite deliberately lost a couple of puzzle elements, initially building a trap, a labyrinth without entry and exit. Two Jewish pranksters lead us into intellectual nonsense to make it clear in the final scene that every grain of sand in the desert has the right to complain to God about loneliness, but only until the wind blows.
After viewing, it seems you were slammed with a dusty bag around a corner. All the way we sincerely empathize to this loser Larry, looking for explanations with all these messages, signs, nightmarish visions and predictions, in order to finally realize that we should not look for a black cat in a dark room, ESPECIALLY when this cat is not in the room.
Apparently, due to the congestion with allusions and details of the Jewish community life, the film “A Serious Man” was not fully accepted and understood. The leading actor, mostly television actor Michael Stuhlbarg, received nomination at Golden Globe, unexpectedly in the category “Best Male Role in a Comedy or Musical”. As usual the BAFTA British Academy did not ignored the script.
Conclusions: I recommend watching this film to all fans of the Coens talent, despite the lack of a usual criminal background. “A Serious Man” is solid and undoubtedly filmed with the ironic elegance, stylish picture and unexpected ending, inherent to the Coen brothers.