Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Serious Man (Rhoades)

Coen Brothers Get Serious With “A Serious Man”
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Key West resident Karen Prince worked with the Coen Brothers on their first movie. She told me the other day that Joel and Ethan were “not what you’d call happy-go-lucky filmmakers.” Despite being known for their black comedies, they were very serious men.

“A Serious Man,” the new black comedy from the Coen Brothers, is currently playing at the Tropic Cinema.

In it, a Midwestern college professor (Michael Stuhlbarg) finds his life unraveling as his wife threatens to leave him because his inept brother (Richard Kind) won’t move out of the house. Funny, huh?

Well, I said it was a black comedy.

Joel and Ethan Coen have a refined taste for the macabre, seasoned with a heightened sense of irony.

They started off with the Hitchcockian “Blood Simple.” And have gone on to give us a non-stop array of genres ranging from “Raising Arizona” and “Fargo” to “Millers Crossing” and “Burn After Reading.”

With “A Serious Man” we get a liberal helping of Jewish humor. Our seriously put-upon professor’s wife is having an affair with his colleague. His son is stealing money out of his wallet to buy pot. His daughter is stealing to finance a nose job. A student is blackmailing him. And a female neighbor insists on sunbathing in the nude.

Oy vey. He must seek advice from three rabbis to make sense of his muddled existence.

There are no “name” stars in the film. But the characters are based on people the Coen brothers knew growing up. “People that we were familiar with growing up, because he’s an academic, and my parents were both, y’ know, academics professionally, and so we met lots of people who were professors at universities and that sort of thing,” says Joel Coen. “He’s a middle aged Jewish father in a community not unlike the one we grew up with, where we met lots of, y’ know, middle-aged Jewish fathers.”

“Occasionally people would ask, You’re not making fun of the Jews, are you,” chuckled brother Ethan.

Joel shakes his head. “From our point of view, it’s a very affectionate look at it.”

“A Serious Man” has been described as “very Hebrew.”

Yep, the Coen brothers tackle yet another genre. Existential Jewish humor.
[from Solares Hill]

No comments: