Take the title of this blog post and substitute “uck” for the astericks and you’ll know what I shouted at my TV screen after watching the movie A Serious Man. My husband about choked at my sudden exclamation.
My profanity is aimed at the Coen Brothers, Joel and Ethan, for creating yet another engrossing movie that leaves you hanging at the end. They did it with No Country for Old Men, but the hangy-ness for that movie wasn’t nearly as bad as for A Serious Man.
And here’s the kicker. The movie is brilliant. It’s the sort of film you need and want to watch at least 50 times in order to figure it out. The characters are well developed, even the minor ones. The settings, costuming and props are spot on. The music fits and is evocative. It also helps date the setting of the movie. Jefferson Airplane’s Somebody to Love is used in the film and it was released in 1967, which I’d estimate is the date of the main story.
The movie has two parts to it. There’s an opening scene between a Jewish husband and wife and a stranger that arrives at their door, which is set in a time much earlier than the main part of the movie. The wife believes the stranger is a dybbuk, an evil spirit that inhabits a person she knows has died. After setting the viewer up this way, the main portion of the movie starts. It follows the life of Professor Lawrence Gopnik, who has a shit life, although a good deal of the shit about it appears to be because he won’t stand up for himself. All the way through the movie I kept thinking, How does the dybbuk fit in with the rest of this?
Oh, yeah. The Coen Brothers had me going. They are diabolical in their ability to manipulate viewers’ emotions, especially in feeding the human need for mystery and denying the human need for story resolution. I swear, they sit around saying to each other, “How can we make a movie that will mess with people’s heads?”