You’re browsing at the video store and you read this on the back of a DVD cover: “Answers lead him (the hero) on a twisted journey of faith, family, delinquent behavior and mortality.” Do you rent the movie? Sounds nutritious, right? Nah, you do what I do — you put it back on the shelf and find something a little … earthier. Something with a little more … gusto.
Sometimes that impulse is a mistake. A Serious Man, the Coen brothers’ reflection on Jewish life in 1960s Minnesota, is what you get when you combine a low-budget, intimate indie with the polish you’d expect from two Oscar-winning Hollywood veterans.
The plot seems simple: Jewish family man faces crises as his world begins to crumble. The humor is gentle; this is the 1960s Midwest — hardly Judd Apatow territory. And yet, with this low-key, low-budget, low-concept material, the brothers Coen craft a film you might remember much longer than that earthier stuff, the stuff with “gusto.” Grade: B+
Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen Cast: Michael Stuhlbarg, Fred Melamed, Richard Kind, Aaron Wolf, Sari Wagner, Jessica McManus, Amy Landecker Release: 2009
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