February 20, 2010

#061: A Serious Man

As a person who loves movies I am interested in seeing anything that gets a mention for the best picture of the year, no matter how stilted that process actually is.  I was even more interested to see this film considering it is a Coen brothers creation.  Even still, I didn't have too high of expectations going into A Serious Man.

This film was a very personal endeavor for the Coens, and doesn't go to any lengths to appeal to a wide audience.  Usually that is a good thing that makes for a very interesting film.  However, for me it completely missed the mark. It is a well made film that has some very funny moments, but overall it fell flat.  The humor is funny in a sort of sad, awkward way.  I understood what the film was saying, or at least I thought I did, but I never felt like I really "got" it.  There has to be a deeper narrative, but I couldn't seem to see it.
Our main character, Larry Gopnik, is the professor at a small university.  Teaching physics he fills the board with mathematical equations that prove with certainty the principles that govern our lives.  However, in his own life nothing is certain.  He has "followed the rules" his entire life.  He has done everything he thought he should have done to be happy.  Instead of happiness he finds hurt an confusion.  Nothing seems to be going his way, and he just can't seem to understand why.

The one highlight of the film was the performance of Michael Stuhlbarg playing Larry Gopnik.  He is able to capture the awkwardness and lack of confidence well.  As the movie went on it all started to feel a bit routine, and I was just hoping something else would come along to spice this story up.  I think most people who rent this film will be disappointed.  There is enough of a story there to make it watchable, but in the end it will be unsatisfying for most.  A Serious Man will surely connect with some, and possibly even be their favorite film of the year.  For me, I felt like it was a waste of time. I really didn't like it.  I will not argue with anybody who loved it.  It isn't a bad movie.  I just can't recommend it.

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