24 January 2010

A Serious Man

The Coen Brothers really only make two kinds of films: Zany comedies or really dark dramas.

While their comedies contain moments of dark drama and vice versa, this is the first film that's truly equal parts of both. You could argue Fargo did it first but past laughing at all the Midwestern accents, there really isn't a lot of comedy in the film, at least not up to the level of the chase in Raising Arizona or, well, anything in The Big Lebowski. The dark ultimately far outweighs the funny in Fargo.

I thought A Serious Man was okay. First off, the Coens deserve a lot of credit for casting Michael Stuhlbarg. They could have easily gone with George Clooney or Brad Pitt but they went with someone who obviously captured the essence of the role and was right for the part. And the guy is good. He's one of the film's strong suits.

There are also two sequences in the film that are particularly masterful. The first is a prologue involving a couple's encounter with a seemingly dead distant relative. There's no clear-cut resolution and it segues perfectly into the opening credits. The atmosphere and tension in the scene outdoes most recent horror films and it confirms just how awesome the Coen Brothers are. As I've said above, they really only make two kinds of movies but the amount of craft and style that goes into each one makes that concept go over most people's heads.

The second sequence is a Rabbi's tale of an orthodontist who finds "Help Me" carved in Yiddish in the back of a patient's teeth. The editing and building of the sequence is brilliant but it's also where the problem with the film lies.

It essentially spells out the entire meaning of the film in the middle of said film. That doesn't mean the film is much ado about nothing and there's a lot to like to about the rest of it but it also takes away any real intrigue as to what could come at the end.

While the ending is unique and will probably have a lot of people scratching their heads, I didn't find myself as engrossed as I was with No Country for Old Men or something really old like Blood Simple.

And I guess that's the other thing for me. I'm still waiting for the proper follow-up to No Country. Take away Richard Jenkins and Brad Pitt getting shot in the face (Note: I like Brad Pitt but that scene is hilarious) and Burn After Reading really isn't that great of a movie. This is a step-up but evidently I'm a fan that possesses the tried and true "Their earlier stuff was better" mentality.

The movie also needed more Richard Kind. That guy is awesome.

Overall, the film, like any Coen Brothers movie, is worth a look. If you're still holding out for the raw power of No Country for Old Men, though, it looks like we're going to have to wait.

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