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A Movie a Week #1: A Serious Man

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A new feature to I Review Too, each week I’ll post a review of a movie worth checking out for all those who are looking for something cool and interesting to watch.  You know what they say: A movie a week keeps the doctor …erm.. well you get the picture.  First up, a dark comedy from possibly the best writer/director team working today – The Coen Brothers’ A Serious Man.

Life is tough for high school teacher Larry Gopnik – He’s trying his best to be a righteous man, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult.  His wife is having an affair with his ‘so-called’ friend, a student determined to get a better grade is blackmailing him and his layabout brother has taken up permanent residency on his couch.  In the classroom Larry specialises in solving physics and maths problems, but real life problems are a different story all together, and Larry Gopnik has plenty of those.

As Larry’s problems get increasingly worse (trapped in a loveless, marital lingo he gets kicked out of his own home and is forced to live at the Jolly Rodger Motel) Larry decides to take refuge in the only thing in his life he has left, his faith.  But much to his dismay, not even the three Rabbis Larry visits can provide much help.

The latest film from Joel and Ethan Coen, the filmmaking duo whose produce is always eagerly awaited doesn’t disappoint fans of their dark, dry humour.  Shying away from the big name distractions that so heavily populated their last release Burn After Reading, A Serious Man is a quiet tale of one mans attempt at doing the right thing against all odds.  A fable or morality tale, which by the end of its one hour forty minute running time, feels more like an elongated short than feature film.

Part autobiographical and obviously a subject that is close to the hearts of the Coen Brothers, A Serious Man delves into religion and the effects it had on a culture that was so heavily constrained by it whilst in a process of change.  Set in 1967, Larry’s son Danny is more interested in smoking pot and listening to Jefferson Airplane than studying for his Bar Mitzvah, and when his wife’s smarmy new lover Sy Ableman requests that Larry files for A Get before making things official, even the Rabbis second guess this Hebrew term for divorce.     Larry’s search for a resolution seems increasingly futile in his rapidly changing culture.

The overall message of A Serious Man seems to be that sometimes there are no answers.  The Coen’s drag poor Larry Gopnik through hell and keep him guessing as to why throughout the whole ordeal.  The days of serious men may have come to a end in our final minutes with Larry where he must make a choice, stay virtuous or loose faith.  Dedicated Coen-ites will enjoy mulling over this low-key drama, however anyone expecting a film with the comedic pace of Raising Arizona or The Big Lebowski may want to give it a miss.

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