Blindspot: A Serious Man

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A Serious ManFor this month's blindspot film, I am choosing a release that is only three years old.  I highly regretted missing out on the Coen Brothers' when it was released in 2009, especially after the film went on to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Picture.  I suppose that I missed out on the film the first time around since it seemed very different from the Coen Brothers' other films to the point that it seemed like a vanity project.  The film was essentially a semi-autobiographical ode to the Coen's Jewish upbringing, which starred a cast of mostly unknown actors (at the time, Spin City's was the only familiar face in the film, though star Michael Stuhlbarg has since gained some recognition as Arnold Rothstein on Boardwalk Empire). After finally getting a chance to see the film theatrically last week, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was still very much a Coen Brothers film and, in some ways, I would say that it ranks among their very best. The film starts in a very Coen-esque fashion with some sort of folk tale, presented entirely in Yiddish, involving a man and wife, who have an encounter with what the wife believes to be an evil spirit.  The scene has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the film and reports state that the Coens included it as a way to set the tone for the rest of the film. A Serious Man focuses on a man named Larry Gopnik (Stuhlbarg), who suddenly finds that his life is unravelling around him.  He works as a physics professor and his anxiously waiting to hear back about his application for tenure, though apparently someone is sending anonymous letters telling the tenure committee to reject the application.  In addition, Larry has been having run-ins with a Korean student, who is upset by a failed midterm and is apparently bribing him for a pass.  At home, Larry`s wife sudden reveals that she wants a divorce, so she can marry a family friend, whose wife recently died.  In addition, Larry`s brother (Kind), who has been living with him, has started to develop a number of legal troubles.  On top of all that, Larry`s son is preparing for his bar mitzvah, though seems a bit more concerned with his confiscated radio (and the $20 tucked into it). Through A Serious Man, the Coens open a window into how the Jewish community relates to and help each other, while also featuring a story that anyone can relate to.  In some ways, the film is about Larry`s doubts over his faith`s ability to help him with his problems.  Throughout the course of the film, Larry one-by-one visits the three Rabbis of his Synagogue and they each end up disappointing him in different ways.  There is also some hints that Larry might be blowing his problems out of proportion and that they might not be as bad as he perceives them to be – as demonstrated through a number of nightmares he has throughout the film. Overall, I have to say that A Serious Man is a fine addition to the Coen Brother`s canon and it was dumb of me to skip it the first time around. 9 | REALLY LIKED IT

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.