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A Serious Man


The Sarge
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The film is set in St. Louis Park, Minnesota in the year 1967, and is intended in some ways to reflect the childhood of the Coen brothers as they recall it.

The protagonist is Larry Gopnik, a Jewish academic living in a middle class Jewish neighborhood in a Minneapolis suburb in 1967. The story follows Gopnik's spiritual and existential struggle as his wife Judith contemplates leaving him for his colleague Sy Ableman. Adding to his suffering is his ne'er-do-well brother, Arthur, who lacks the resources and the ability to care for himself and who consequently lives on Larry's couch. Larry begins to question the value of his life as he deals with these trials, in addition to his son, Danny, who steals money from his wallet to buy marijuana, his daughter, Sarah, who steals to finance a planned nose job, a student who alternately attempts to bribe him for a passing grade and threatens to sue him for defamation (made all the worse because Larry is up for tenure), and a neighbor lady who distracts him by sunbathing in the nude. Larry seeks advice from three different rabbis in an attempt to solve his problems and to become an austere and devoted man.

Due October 2 in the US.

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  • 3 months later...
Looks like a good 'un. I'd love to see another Cormac McCarthy adaptation from them though.

Suttree would be a good one for them as it is jammed full of odd characters and weird incidents.

I loved No Country For Old Men but Burn After Reading I didn't really enjoy as the cast were stars; their films with a cast of non-famous actors always seem so much better.

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Yeah, I went to see this on Friday afternoon. I liked it, it was funny, but it's definitely one I need to watch again. The ending annoyed me at first, I was left thinking 'is that it?', but I've been thinking about it quite a lot since, and it's all starting to make a little more sense. Quite a lot to take in on one viewing, I reckon.

Also:

Cousin Andy! :(

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So I was loving it, and then

it just ends!

:(

I don't know how I feel about that.

For the rest of it, I pretty much loved everything. It has that deft balance between tragic situations and comic people that you want from a quieter Coen film (it had that sort of humour you find in Fargo or Barton Fink) with that utterly believable yet entirely ridiculous chain of events you'd want.

I'd love to watch it again, but I don't know if somewhere along the line I missed things that would let me appreciate the final parts more. Or maybe there's like a Jewish culture joke in there that I don't get.

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Don't worry, once a rip is 'out there' the thread will pick up with handy running commentaries. "Just watched the first 20 mins of this..." :D

I was hoping to watch this at the weekend but didn't get around to it. There's a bunch of films out now that I want to see but I doubt I'll be able to catch on their theatrical run. This, The Informant, Men Who Star At Goats, Harry Brown... As ridiculous as it sounds I'll probably watch 2012 before all of those as that needs massive screen spectacle.

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I thought this was great, and the ending was brilliant.

Its so foreboding and leaves you with the sense that the suffering is just going to go on and on, just when it had looked like things were starting to work out. Which kind of fits with the feeling of the whole film – I think I would have been more annoyed with an 'everything works out in the end' kind of denouement.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Saw this tonight, thought it was excellent - some wonderful comic moments and performances (Sy Ableman :wub:) amongst the dark tone. I haven't watched a Coen Brothers film since The Man Who Wasn't There (really need to see No Country For Old Men, but haven't felt compelled to see the others) and fell completely back in love with their style and craft.

Much to take in though, still mulling it over in my head. Deserves far more attention than it's got here.

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Yeah, I saw it yesterday. I thought it was seriously good (lol). I particularly loved the South Korean student :lol: So well observed.

There was a little moment where I felt it was beginning to drag, but the whole thing just accelerated from then on, right towards an incredibly intense ending. It started like a gradual ramp, but then things totally spiralled out of control in a chain reaction. It's a lot of punishment to see one guy take, so it was an amazing sensation of complete anxiety at seeing this decent, intelligent, compassionate man become unravelled completely by the cards he'd been dealt. True to the Coens' best form, however, it was simultaneously ridiculous and blackly hilarious.

Definitely an intense movie, despite its initially slow pace. Indeed, the continued acceleration / deterioration of Gopnik's life just felt all the more "sudden" somehow. Like this big chain reaction of events spiralled out of control, and he was completely powerless.

Good link to the twister motif at the end there, I thought.

I also really liked how his own son's plight (the pressures of his Bar Mitzvah, his own money woe with the class bully, etc) mirrored that of his dad's. It added to this sense that all the stress, strife and woe is actually endless. A fact of life that will continue from generation to generation. Pretty bleak, but very profound in amongst the dark comedy.

Personally, I enjoyed the ending.

Again, we're

lead to believe that life's unrelenting kicks to Gopnik's balls were destined to just keep on coming, though whether or not this is in fact true is left open to our own imagination. Does he indeed get the tenure? Are his x-ray results to be devastating or positive? Will his son be killed in the storm? Personally, the message I got from the movie was that God was trying one of his people. Really testing him. Pushing him right towards breaking point. And then, almost as a reward for not giving into temptation, and continuing to seek spiritual advice (despite the frustrations this brought) there's almost a vague suggestion of reconcilliation, and getting his life back on track - a kind of happiness and pride shared with his wife at the Bar Mitzvah, and news that his enemy Ableman had so much respect for him, and had written letters to the university about his tenure (I initially thought this meant he was the anonymous, negative correspondant, but the hint that the tenure was indeed Gopnik's suggests otherwise). So just as things finally begin to look up, God provides one final test - he gets hit with the attorney fees. And it's the straw that breaks the camels back. Boom. Ominous phonecall, and a tornado begins to brew. I guess the son's hesitance to refund the bully's money in the face of doom is the equivalent of his dad finally taking the bribe. I like how the ending left these questions in the air. Also, don't forget the (dream?) scene where Gopnik explains in one of his lectures this insane, intricate maths formula which essentially proves that we can't in fact, truly know why anything ever happens at all. The ambiguous ending kinda lead back into that for me.

Apart from all that, the use of music was really great, and there were plenty of memorable, funny scenes.

The stone-baked Bar Mitzvah

blew my mind, for example :lol:

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Mmm, you can definitely take it as a retelling of the Book of Job. I loved how little it spoonfeeds you throughout - there are so many things that are hinted at or are left unresolved and ambiguous. Definitely picking this up for further viewings.

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Great film.

A possible take on the ending:

Larry does nothing his entire life. The film leads you to believe that all the shit things happening to him are because of the curse at the beginning (some ancestor we assume). Actually, the curse was never able to trouble him because he did nothing for his entire life, simply reacted to the people around him without taking control of the situation. Toward the end of the film we see things looking up for him, still without him having done anything to change his situation. He finally does something dishonourable, out of character but most importantly of his own choosing (change the Korean students grade) and the curse is at last able to exact revenge upon him and his son with the tornado (itself a metaphor for his lack of control) and the ominous call from the doctor.

Doesn't exactly tie in with the obvious book of job parallel, but the significance of 'I haven't done anything' being repeated drew my girlfriend and I to this as a possible explanation.

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Hmm. Definitely an interesting slant on it.

I really didn't believe that the fable at the start had much to do with the rest of the film, actually, but that's a nice enough theory. I'm sure I read the Coens themselves mention something about it simply being used to set a kind of haunting tone over the whole film, which is something I definitely felt. Then again, they said Frago was based on a true story.

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