Saturday, February 27, 2010

Seriously Wicked Fun

I throughly enjoyed, and highly recommend, 'A Serious Man,' the brilliant dark comedy by the Coen Brothers that looks at late 1960s Jewish life through a funhouse mirror while channeling the Book of Job.

Centering this film is a terrific performance by the heretofore little-known Michael Stuhlbarg (pictured righ) as a Jewish professor, husband, and father whose life is suddenly unravelling, leaving him reeling and asking 'the big questions."

Since I was a child in the late 60s Jewish suburbs - very much like the shirking, distracted grade-school son of the main character - I can vouch for the film's pitch-perfect period authenticity; my particular memories mesh well with the surreal-but-real, subtly caustic sensibility the filmmakers deploy here. It's a very personal film - the brothers Coen themselves grew up in this time and place, in a Jewish midwestern enclave.

Something is not quite right under the surface of this community, the era's creature comforts haven't quieted the residual trauma of the preceding decades great migration from the old country to the new, and their microcosm is on a collision course with the post-60s Zeitgeist. And all the world's shag carpeting, plastic sofa-covers, and earth-toned furniture isn't going to save them...

This film actually got nominated for Best Picture, a happy dividend of expanding the category from 5 to 10 films, as it was before 1944. Here's the a video review by Chicago Tribune....

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