A Serious Man is OK, but really I expected better from the Coen Brothers.
Fargo is one of my top ten or so favorite movies of all time. The Big Lebowski is up there at least close to that level. I liked No Country For Old Men a lot. Burn After Reading, Raising Arizona, and O Brother, Where Art Thou? were decent. Miller’s Crossing didn’t do much for me. The Hudsucker Proxy I got through maybe five minutes of before concluding it looked really, really stupid and of no interest to me.
I’d put A Serious Man on about the level of Burn After Reading, Raising Arizona, and O Brother, Where Art Thou?—some worthwhile moments and a few laughs, but really not anything that impressed me in a big way.
In a comic manner it raises Job-like issues as the protagonist schmoe Larry Gopnik quizzically watches his 1967 world crumbling around him. Over the course of the movie, he deals with everything from major marital and financial crises, to his teenage son’s nagging him that the roof antenna needs further adjustment in order to get a decent picture for F-Troop.
The dialogue is clever and there are the kind of well-drawn quirky characters and situations you’d expect in a Coen Brothers comedy, so it’s hard not to like the journey at least somewhat, but the movie never really connected with me in a deeper way.
The reviews I saw talked about how this is really a mature work compared to what they’ve done in the past, so I expected something where you kind of laugh here and there along the way but in the end you realize it had more serious things to say or had a significant emotional punch to it. But I got the sizzle, the surface stuff, without much of a payoff beyond that.
A little of the disconnect—though I don’t think more than a little—is attributable to my not being Jewish and not fully appreciating all the “inside jokes.” I’m aware enough of Jewish stuff that I think I “got” the bulk of it, but the movie probably speaks more directly and more clearly to a person who has spent their life immersed in that culture.
I come away from A Serious Man remembering some fun characters, scenes, and lines, but otherwise feeling little beyond a shrug.