Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Weeks Too Late: A Serious Man

A Serious Man. Written & Directed by Ethan & Joel Coen.

Preconceptions: There are few things not to love about the Coen Brothers' movies. They're stylish, often a bit weird (or a lot weird at their best) and interesting no matter how long they run (a rare gift). I've liked the vast majority of their movies, and that's saying something given that they're work horses who put something out most every other year. However,while I haven't exactly disliked their last few, they haven't really wowed me in a while. I was pretty curious about A Serious Man because it was supposed to be the same concept as O Brother, where they take the frame of a classic story (God teasing Job this time) and set it in a different time with different details.

General Review: I'm torn in how I feel about this flick. In a lot of ways it's a return to form for the Coens, but ultimately it was unsatisfying. It's got the off kilter point of view and strange characters that I love about their movies. What it didn't have, however, was a complete plot. It started out well enough, with a ghost and a man's miserable life. I think I'm on record as thoroughly enjoying both of those things. I continued to enjoy watching Michael Stuhlbarg's various trials, they were a good mix of life changers and mundane.

I was with the movie as we watched Stuhlbarg attempt to get help from various sources and was given useless platitudes. Then we suddenly reach the end of the movie with a feeling of "and it goes on like this." The movie really felt like it was building to something but I was left without getting to see the climax (highly unsatisfactory in any situation, if you ask me) . I guess this was an experiment in film making, but while I liked a lot of things about this movie, the whole thing felt like delicious dough but not bread.

As usual in Coen movies the cast was great. I'd never seen Michael Stuhlbarg in anything previously, but hope to see more of him. His chemistry with Fred Melamed was good, particularly given that Melamed was trying to steal away Stuhlbarg's wife. Surprisingly, in a movie about God bothering someone Tom Waits didn't appear in a puff of smoke to play the Devil.

The setting actually felt a lot fuller than the plot. The 70s were such a visually interesting (not to mention ugly) time. And there is nothing wrong with seeing people flitting around in horn rimmed glasses (they are where it's at).

Like I said, I'm torn on this movie. While I wouldn't say it was a waste of your time to watch, I also wouldn't give it a wholehearted recommendation. If you've enjoyed the Coens' other movies, you'll probably enjoy parts of this. I wouldn't recommend it if you're wanting to try them out for the first time. O Brother and Fargo are probably much better bets.

No comments:

Post a Comment