Movie Review: A Serious Man (2009)

I’d been looking forward to seeing the movie, A Serious Man, since seeing the previews and that it was a Coen brothers movie. After such hits as Raising Arizona, Fargo, O Brother Where Art Thou, Intolerable Cruelty, The Big Lebowski and No Place For Old Men they had become my favorite filmmakers.  But A Serious Man was a serious letdown, not because it wasn’t interesting and quirky like other Coen brothers movies but because of its message.

I’m worn out on movies that are excuses for two-hour chase scenes, and I long ago let go of the requirement that movies have happy endings.  I get that movies don’t have to cheer us up or give a false view of reality.  I get that movies are a medium for cultural dialogue and exploring the deeper questions of life.   In fact, that’s why I love going to the movies.  And when filmmakers can make me laugh while exploring the weightier questions, I appreciate them even more. That’s why I like the Coen brothers and Woody Allen.

But while we don’t need trite Leave It To Beaver resolution in our films, do we really need more nihilism?  (Note: In the movie poster our hero is on the roof adjusting his tv antenna because his reception is terrible–read, there is no God in the cosmos communicating with man).   Nihilism is about as fresh as disco.  It was once fashionable.  Now it’s hardly interesting.  And I expected better from the Coen brothers.  Even James Cameron’s graphic pantheism in Avatar was an attempt at something other than nothingness, misguided as it was.

And if Joel and Ethan really believe in nothingness, why do they feel it necessary to tell us?  I mean really, if the universe has no purpose, why would they think it theirs to tell us?  Have the Coens already forgotten that even The Dude, for all his slackerliness, had enough sense to fight off the Nihilists?  Rated R for language, some sexuality/nudity and brief violence. GS

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