A Serious Man (2009)

Starring Michael Stuhlbarg (hardly a real “star”  yet), Richard Kind (you know him)
TMG Scale 8.0

“Receive with simplicity all that happens to you.”  You will understand.

This movie had zero plot and so many Yiddish and Hebrew expressions I might have preferred to forcefully choke on some stale kneidlach instead.  So why did it work?  Why rate it 8.0?  The answer is, Ethan and Joel—-the Cohen Brothers. Ethan and Joel are pure genius.  On TMG’s bucket list is to have dinner with these guys. Just go see The Big Lebowksi or Fargo.

To be honest, TMG started out thinking A Serious Man was the Jewish hot summer afternoon in the Midwest equivalent to Shutter Island.  This movie starts odd.  It grows on you, though not always comfortably.  The movie rambles around the life of a middle aged Jewish man, his wife, kids and his teaching job.  It is often sad and depressing.  The year 1967, despite historical revisionism beyond reality, was a time as rough and icky as a chicken emerging from an egg.  I think the subtitle for this film probably should have just been “shit happens.”  (My apologies for the profanity but there is no way to gloss that expression up and still make it come out the same.)

TMG prides himself on not reviewing movies, but rather commenting on them.  The difference is TMG respects your right to go see it and judge for yourself.  Movie critics and reviewers love to bloviate on every scene, every character and the finale in a sort of sadistic journalistic ritual of open bowel surgery.  It is akin to a waiter describing the route your steak took from artificial insemination to slaughterhouse and then saying “Go ahead, enjoy.  “Michael is a story about an overweight John Travolta dressed in angel wings leading a band of journalistic misfits through honky tonk bars and across Kansas tourist attractions…”  Who would have seen this masterpiece after such an accurate review?  Yet Michael was one of the most daring, touching, entertaining and underrated films of our times.

This is not a Friday night date movie.  Better to watch it on an airplane like I did so you cannot get up and exit early.  Entertained?  Maybe not so much.  Intrigued, informed and exposed to a lesson in the human condition?  I think so.  Grace Slick once bellowed the warning“ You better find somebody to love.” The point is well taken. Get this film on DVD and watch the interview with Joel and Ethan Cohen immediately afterwards. It will bring it all together for you. It was like heavy cherry icing on a hot milk cake.  Enjoy!

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