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A Serious Man

Digital Two Stars
I must admit that I wasn’t that taken by the idea of A Serious Man when the blurb for the film first came out, and considering that I sometimes feel that the Coen Brothers deliver too much Coen and not enough substance I didn’t feel the excitement rising for this film.

However I was asked to review it and so I approached it with an open mind, and I was greeted by a number of surprises and did find I was pulled into the story much more than I thought.

Plot.pngASeriousMan.jpgA Serious Man is the story of just that, a very serious man. Set in the seventies it sees Professor Lawrence Gopnik, a married man, settled into life with his two children, his nice house in a nice neighbourhood and a job at the university that may well be about to reach ...

However all that begins to crumble around him, day after day more and more things go wrong and events pile on top of each other. Soon he’s struggling to understand why and he turns to his Rabbi to help him. However there are three Rabbis that he can see, and the one he wants to see, the one that he believes really can help him, is the one he just can’t get to see.

TheFilm.pngThere was a fundamental flaw at the heart of A Serious Man for me, and that was the fact that it felt difficult to connect with many of the characters and situations because I just couldn’t understand or empathise with them.

The entire Rabbi story line felt somewhat of an alien concept to me and I struggled with the fact that the character just couldn’t accept some responsibility and that he seemed so gormless and apathetic to events around him. For a lot of the film it felt as though he just let go and allowed the events to overtake him.

Saying that Michael Stuhlbarg does play him well and give a good performance as the character, and there are good performances all round.

Yet I felt that the Rabbi story-line could have been so much more, with them offering advice at each stage of his journey advice that would have been useless but perhaps comically reflective on his situation. I had expected that each visit would have built on the last and led to the ultimate let down, and yet there just seemed to be no real weight or progression behind them. In a way they felt as gormless and ineffective as the lead character himself.

Another aspect of the story that just didn’t sit very well with me was that of the brother. So what that he seemed to have invented a formula for gambling when he should have been writing or learning about something to do with the Jewish scriptures? It went nowhere and offered little other than to offer the audience a dead end story-line with a character who turned out to be something other than he appeared. Again a flash of interest in a character, but ultimately there was nothing there.

What I can say is that I appreciated some of the scenes and the moments that the characters are put in, scenes that come to mind are when the neighbour comes home with the deer, or all the times that we see him talking to the professor who never enters his office. All these moments are well scripted and well directed, but they really didn’t capture me.

It’s hard to exactly nail down why, although a lot of it I can put down to that apathetic character and the inability to connect with the characters and story, and I think Coen fans will enjoy the film. However it was one of these films that really just didn’t engage me and hold my attention.

The ending of the film is perhaps one of the most confusing aspects. It doesn’t seem to deliver an ending, something that is typical of a Coen film, and in fact delivering the foreboding of another chapter to the story.

A Serious Man is well filmed, and looks good on the small screen in some of the daylight shots, but come the few darkened night time moments and the screen was far too dark to see what was happening. Thankfully though, these scenes were few and far between.

Audio.pngiTouch Stereo
The audio was the usual stereo with no real special awareness.

Overall.pngI wasn’t taken with A Serious Man. It failed to engage me and I felt little for the thoroughly unsympathetic and seemingly flat characters who seemed to lack any real depth or interest. It wasn’t just the characters for me either, it was the story too. I didn’t feel invested or engaged by either, and I was happy to let them pass me by in the hope that something more interesting was coming.

I’m sure that Coen fans will take to the film, but for me it fell far short of what it had promised.

Buy from A Serious Man on iTunes UKiTunes UK or A Serious Man on iTunes USiTunes US
UK IMDB Film Details



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