Disclaimer

Like my book reviews site, these are movie reviews I write for entertainment purposes only. These are just my reviews and my opinions. They are not endorsed by Blogger or any movie studios or anyone else. So there. I borrowed my scoring system from the Metacritic site, which does not imply an endorsement from them, although I think they do have a very nice website. I convert the 1-100 scores into 1-4 stars, essentially it works like this:

1 star = 25 points
2 stars = 50 points
3 stars = 75 points
4 stars = 100 points

And then if something falls about halfway between, then I'll give it an added half-star.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Serious Man

There's no way that "A Serious Man" could deal with anyone other than Jews. Only people who have endured thousands of years of persecution since the days of the pharaohs could possibly be believable in a movie about someone who seems tormented by an vengeful God for no apparent reason.

In a prologue, a man is out at night in probably a European village in the 19th Century or so. When his wagon breaks down, an old man shows up to help him. As repayment, the man takes the old gent back to his house to warm up. The only problem is that his wife recognizes the old man as someone who died three years earlier. She believes the old guy to be an evil spirit and goes so far as to stab him in the heart. He stumbles off bleeding into the night. Was he really an evil spirit? Who knows.

Compare this many years later to Larry Gopnik, a physics professor in Minnesota. Larry seems to have a pretty good life in the suburbs with his wife and two kids. Larry's son is having his bar mitzvah soon and Larry is up for tenure at his school. The only problem seems to be his brother (Richard Kind, who's made a career of playing annoying characters) Arthur who sleeps on the couch while working on some crazy theory to unravel the secrets of the universe.

Then abruptly everything goes ff the rails for Larry. His wife announces that she's been seeing a friend named Sy Abelman and wants a divorce. (Worse yet she wants a consensual religious divorce so she and Sy won't be excommunicated.) His son is smoking pot and owes a bully money. His daughter is stealing money to save up for a nose job. A Korean student who's failing Larry's class tries to bribe him for a passing grade. And someone's been writing letters to the tenure committee trying to trash Larry's reputation. (And his TV antenna isn't working right and his neighbor wants to build a boat house practically on his property...we could go all day.)

As things go from bad to worse, Larry futilely tries to understand why all of this is happening and what he can do to make it stop. He seeks the advice of rabbis and his lawyer but can't seem to find any answers. The movie ends very abruptly with no real answers being given. Who of us mortals can possibly understand God's mind? Nobody. Much like the man at the start of the movie, Larry's done nothing wrong and yet for some reason outside forces seem to choose him to avenge themselves on.

The movie is funny, but not the laugh-out-loud rubber chicken funny. As Ebert said, it's "wince-wince funny." You have to keep asking yourself, as Larry certainly does, "How can this possibly get worse?" Through it all, Larry isn't exceptionally whiny or annoying, more like confused--and rightfully so. What did he do to deserve such a fate?

In the end, the answer that there is no answer probably won't be very satisfying. Still, if nothing else, it'll be a cathartic experience.

That is all.

My score: 65/100 (2.5 stars)

Metacritic score: 79/100 (3 stars)

PS: Don't confuse this with "A Single Man" also from 2009 that deals with a homosexual man in the '50s or so.

2 comments:

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  2. Aw, I bet you say that to all the guys.

    ReplyDelete