Written by / 11/29/2011 / No comments / , , ,

THE COENS DIRECT A SERIOUS MAN

year: 2009 rating: ***
Gotta hand it to the Coen Brothers: after a decade of casting Hollywood bigshots like George Clooney and Brad Pitt, they make a small film where the most recognized actor is George Wyner...

This 1960's character-study draws you in with a purposely-sluggish pace involving a Jewish mathematics teacher, downplayed with charming droll by Michael Stuhbarg, going through sheer hell: his wife has just left him, his kids don't respect him, his brother mooches off him, and even the local rabbis can't help in his search for the meaning of life... and why it's treating him so badly.

Although wonderfully filmed, and reminiscent of FARGO with a bevy of quirky, long-faced drones sinking deeper into their own personal abyss, the odd charm peters out and we're left with questions without answers.

The b-story involving Stuhbarg's stoned son preparing for his bar mitzvah is interesting but eventually a waste. And the first ten minutes, which has nothing to do with the rest of the film... centering on a Yiddish couple in the 19th century visited by a dead man... is perhaps the best and/or most intriguing scene. While an ambiguous ending, a device the Coens seem prone to lately, leaves a dull aftertaste that can turn a good review into a bad one.
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