A Serious Man

Year: 2009

Writer and Director: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen

Budget: $7 000 000 (estimated)

Gross: $3 196 496 (as of October 25th, 2009)


in 2007 the coen brothers gave us No Country For Old Men which was a masterpiece and made the number one spot on my best of the year list for that year. then last year they gave us Burn After Reading which was kind of fun and entertaining, but ultimately disappointing and unsuccessful as a complete film (and ended up at number 10 on my worst of list last year). this year they have given us A Serious Man and i am very happy to tell you that this one has the coen brothers back on track.

A Serious Man is an incredible film and one that has put itself in the running for best movie of the year in my books.

what's interesting is that, just like Burn After Reading, A Serious Man is a little random at times, can be confusing to anyone trying to make sense out of all the various symbols and ideas as well as the opening prologue and closing image. and yet, where Burn After Reading left me empty and unsatisfied, A Serious Man blew me away.

the funny thing is, i'm not sure that everything is supposed to make sense or connect to each other in some grand meaning beyond the general ideas. maybe everything isn't supposed to "make sense" in that way?

there is a great scene in the film in which the main character is talking to a rabbi, trying to get some help with his life that is falling apart. the rabbi tells him this story about a dentist who saw something on a patients teeth once and became obsessed with figuring out what it meant. when the story ends the man asks the rabbi what ended up happening and the rabbi basically responds, "nothing. he just went on with his life."

using that story as a metaphor for a reading of the film, one could take away that not every symbol or moment is connected with everything else and that there aren't always answers to the questions. sometimes there are just more questions (like the last moment of the film which left me exhilarated, but also left me with more questions rather than answers).

however, as i say that, i almost want to take it back, because i just have a hard time thinking that the coen brothers would do that. they are famous for their meticulousness in their film making (they storyboard every single frame of their films) and so a film without answers or a well though out meaning to every single image and scene seems almost silly to say. but, i said it.

i would tell you what the film was about, but that wouldn't do it justice. the basic plot outline is actually rather regular and uninteresting if narrowed down to a sentence or two. where this film becomes the magnificent thing that it is is in the execution of it all and in the brilliant writing that takes the simple outline to places that one would never imagine had they been given said plot summary and told to create a story out of it.

these guys are film makers at the top of their game. the camera work, the editing, the writing, the use of sound and music and imagery. it is all excellent and given their past films, it is not a surprise how good they can be.