Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A SERIOUS MENSCH

I liked A SERIOUS MAN quite a bit. It reminded me of other Coen Brothers films, but in a good way, not a derivative way. If you have not seen this film, be forewarned that it is an intellectual film, designed to be discussed, perhaps even argued about afterward. It is not self-contained entertainment for the masses. Although there are moments where I laughed, it is far from a comedy, and most people would find it quite depressing. I also think you must have some knowledge of basic religious ideas, particularly Old Testament, if you want to have an intelligent discussion about the film.

The serious man in the title is basically Job, a man for whom everything goes badly. And not in a funny way. Every time you think something is going to turn around, it only gets worse. It can make the film a highly frustrating experience to watch, yet, like a car wreck, you can't turn away. The characters are very interesting, even though there is no one in the movie that is even remotely sympathetic. Everyone is selfish in their own way, although our hero is the least flawed person in the movie. His biggest flaw is that he is a nebbish who allows the world to happen to him instead of vice versa, which is probably why he ends up in such a hole.

The acting in the film is exceptional. Most of the actors are not film actors; there are only a couple of recognizable faces. Richard Kind is not funny here, but pathetic. Alan Arkin is an apparently greedy and uncaring divorce lawyer. All of the other character actors are unrecognizable, which lends an air of truth to the film.

The eye for detail in art direction is amazing. Although it is never explained when or where the film takes place, the art direction and music place it in the 60s and every detail is very well done. I'm not sure how they found so many houses near each other that have not changed in four decades.

I recommend this film to people who want to think after they see a movie. If that's not you, I think 2012 is still in theaters.
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