Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Serious Man by The Coen Brothers

As I’ve mentioned previously, I run hot and cold when it comes to the Brothers Coen. I think I surprised even myself by really loving last year’s Burn After Reading. The Coen’s are back with A Serious Man. Given that it’s set in a late 60s, Jewish suburban milieu, I was really psyched to see it. Finally, a movie about my people. And let me say this about that. It turns out, A Serious Man may be the most Jewish movie to hit the mainstream since Fiddler on The Roof. And for that, I loved it. So many great jokes that non-Jews may not even recognize as jokes abound. Conversations in Hebrew and Yiddish go by without the benefit of translation. Cultural and religious references fill the scenes and The Coens make no attempt to explain those moments to a broader audience. Again, I loved that. I loved that my culture just existed in a movie without having to pander or explain itself to the dominant culture. That said, I’m not surprised the film seems to be dying a slow box office death. I can’t see non-Jews digging this movie. And for that matter, I can’t see most Jews digging it either. It’s a pretty unsympathetic portrayal of the Jewish experience. The women are bitches, the men are nebbishes, the rabbis are fools, and the kids are narcissistic or drug-addled. In other words, the suburban Jews of the world will probably hate this movie. I’m sure much of the Jewish community is thinking, ‘Finally a movie about our people, by our people, and we still come across like a bunch of shmendricks.’ I’ll give The Coens a pass on that one. Coen Brothers’ movies are always filled with flawed, pathetic characters. A Serious Man is no different in that regard, but this time they turn their sites on their own upbringing. And that’s ok in my world.

2 comments:

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Ericvstar said...

Danny,

I agree with you completely. This is a movie that spoke to my childhood as your next door neighbor. So many of the details in the movie impacted my senses. I began to remember certain smells, and certain events that were long forgotten. There was a certain comfort in my early years growing up on Harden, and A Serious Man brought me back to that security.

I found the humor of the characters to be familiar of Coen Brothers movies. They seem to hit on aspects of personalities that are usually annoying, yet they present the quirks in disarming and sometimes even endearing ways.