A Serious Man (Blu-ray)

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Rating: R

Starring:
Michael Stuhlbarg as Larry Gopnik
Richard Kind as Uncle Arthur
Fred Melamed as Sy Ableman
Sari Lennick as Judith Gopnik
Aaron Wolff as Danny Gopnik
Jessica McManus as Sarah Gopnik
Peter Breitmayer as Mr. Brandt
Brent Braunschweig as Mitch Brandt
David Kang as Clive Park
Benjy Portnoe as Danny’s Reefer Buddy
Jack Swiler as Boy on Bus
Andrew S. Lentz as Cursing Boy on Bus
Jon Kaminski Jr. as Mike Fagle
Ari Hoptman as Arlen Finkle
Alan Mandell as Rabbi Marshak

Special Features:
- Becoming Serious: Explore the creative vision behind “A Serious Man” and see why it’s the Coen brothers’ most personal film.
- Creating 1967: Take a tour of the Minneapolis neighborhoods and set pieces used in the film.
- Hebrew and Yiddish for Goys: Unravel the mysterious of the Hebrew and Yiddish languages.

Other Info:
Widescreen (1.85:1)
DTS Surround Sound
French and Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 106 Minutes

The Details:
The following is the official description of the film:

“Academy Award®-winning directors Joel and Ethan Coen return to their comedy roots with this original and darkly humorous story about one ordinary man’s quest to become a serious man. Physics professor Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) can’t believe his life: His wife is leaving him for his best friend, his unemployed brother won’t move off the couch, someone is threatening his career, his kids are a mystery and his neighbor is tormenting him by sunbathing nude. Struggling to make sense of it all, Larry consults three different rabbis and their answers lead him on a twisted journey of faith, family, delinquent behavior and mortality.”

“A Serious Man” is rated R for language, some sexuality/nudity and brief violence.

Mini-Review:
I was really looking forward to the Coen Brothers latest movie. And for the first hour or so I was really enjoying it. It was fun to see Larry deal with problem students at his college, deal with angst-ridden teens, and face the loss of his wife to one of his fellow professors. His life was spiraling down the toilet and I was really anticipating seeing him either snap and have it out with everyone or reclaim his life. But as the film progressed further, it became quite apparent that the happy ending I was looking for was not going to happen. “A Serious Man” went from being a lighthearted tale about a likable loser to a dark tale about a life ruined. To further complicate things, the film ends quite abruptly leaving you scratching your head and saying, “Huh?” I thought maybe I was missing the point or I just didn’t get it, but when I asked other critics and people who saw it how they interpreted the ending, they seemed just as baffled as I was. So between the dark tone and the unresolved ending, I didn’t enjoy “A Serious Man” all that much.

I do think Jewish audiences are going to enjoy this a lot more than non-Jewish or ‘goy’ audiences. They’ll probably see things in the movie that reflect their own experiences growing up and that understandably makes it more enjoyable for them. But without that nostalgia coming into play, “A Serious Man” lacks something.

All that being said, this film does have a good cast that delivers strong performances. Michael Stuhlbarg nails his performance as Larry Gopnik. He’s meek and utterly blindsided by the events of the film. Despite his cluelessness, he’s still likable. Fred Melamed is also a great big screen villain as Sy Ableman. He sweet-talks Larry and is cordial with him while stabbing him in the back and stealing his wife. You’ll want to see him hit by a bus within a minute of meeting him. Aaron Wolff is also memorable as Danny Gopnik, Larry’s son facing a Bar mitzvah while stoned. The rest of the supporting cast is also quite good.

I suppose I’d recommend this movie to Jewish indie film fans and die-hard Coen fans. They are the ones who will be most forgiving of the film’s faults.

The bonus features on the Blu-ray are fairly minimal, but they cover most of the aspects of the film that you’ll care about. “Becoming Serious” is a ‘making of’ featurette and in it the Coens admit that the opening sequence is pretty much stand-alone and has nothing to do with the rest of the movie. “Creating 1967″ talks about the challenges of making the costumes, cars, and other stuff authentic to 1967. “Hebrew and Yiddish for Goys” is pretty self explanatory. While some of the Hebrew terms are well known, other terms used in the film need definitions for goys like me.

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