The Coen brothers’ latest film was released on DVD a week and a half ago. A Serious Man was released to largely positive reviews last year. As a big fan of the Coen brothers, I was rather disappointed that a film Rotten Tomatoes called “what might be [the Coen brothers’] most mature – if not their best – film to date” only received limited release. I was unable to see the film until just recently, when I ordered it through Netflix.
A Serious Man is best described as the Coen brothers’ attempt to retell the biblical story of Job in a modern context (actually the film takes place in 1960s, but that’s pretty modern compared to the Old Testament). Larry Gopnik, a meek Jewish college professor, is beset with various crises that seem to come out of the blue. His brother is staying at his house. One of his student’s is attempting to bribe him for a passing grade. And his wife wants a divorce because she’s started dating a family friend. The sad part is that things only get worse for Larry.
The Coen brothers’ latest feature is a masterpiece and one of the best films of 2009. The film not only makes us laugh, but also think about grand metaphysical questions. We laugh at the horrible events that befall Larry Gopnik and his seemingly hopeless attempts at figuring out why God would allow these things to happen to him. We are also forced, like Larry Gopnik, to ponder these questions and discover the meaning of life ourselves. A Serious Man is the best kind of comedy: it’s both hilarious and insightful.