The Coen Bros' latest, "A SERIOUS MAN" is now available on blu-ray. Some gifted filmmakers have shown that their most personal films could also be their most accessible for the masses. As gifted as the Coen Brothers are, their latest and most personal film, "A SERIOUS MAN," is likely to be their least accessible for masses. Let's start with the ending to the film! Without giving anything away, probably as many people hated "A COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN" as liked it, largely due to its troubling ending. The ending for "A SERIOUS MAN" is far more disconcerting, and unresolved, and frustrating, even for fans of the film, than the ending of "A COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN" was.
Michael Stuhlbarg stars as Larry Gopnik, a hard-working married father of two, doing his best to maintain the reassurance he's found within his faith, while challenges facing his marriage, children, brother even maintaining his job, are becoming increasingly harder to deal with. In fact, he's begun to find that even the certainty and reassurance of his Jewish faith, has becomes less than certain! There are numerous sub-plots taking place here. Larry has always relied on his inner moral compass to do the right thing in any given situation. When a foreign student offers a bribe in the attempt to make Larry change his grade, Larry's response is never in question. However, the ramifications stemming from Larry's reaction to the bribe, are surprising and troubling, as the audience acknowledges the unfairness of a cruel, uncertain world, and he's only just now becoming aware of it!
Pot and attitudes around pot, play an interesting role in "A SERIOUS MAN." Larry's son enjoys getting high, something that's at first almost shocking considering the seemingly rigid constraints of the family he's part of. However, as the image of the Gopnik family is demystified, Danny(the son)and his actions seem more natural and understandable than everyone else in his family. In fact, even when Larry, within the environment of another woman, other than than that of the wife who's been cheating on him, is smoking a joint for the first time, the arguably "reckless" actions of a professor, seem to be perfectly rational, even logical, given what he's had to deal with!
"A SERIOUS MAN" is not a film for the masses. In fact, it's decidedly made for a Jewish audience. There are many moments within the film, wherein even Jewish viewers may not comprehend some of the deeper religious cultural notions at play.
There's a lot that happens within the narrative of "A SERIOUS MAN," almost at odds with itself! The beginning, possibly the best part of the film, has its own unique style and look, involving a peasant, his wife and a rabbi whom has chosen to visit them. Unfortunately, as the wife notes, the rabbi her husband has invited into their home, has been dead for some time. There's a humor and depth to this segment, which is captivating, leaving viewers wanting it to continue. Unfortunately, not only does it end. But, worse, it's not in any way connected to the rest of the film!!!
Even with "A SERIOUS MAN" having a serious lack of resolution, and other troubling aspects, it's a thoroughly engrossing films. "A SERIOUS MAN" is a troubling film, filled with some hilarious moments, but hard to imagine re-watching as much as other Coen films. But, it's still a fine film.
UNIVERSAL has provided the correct 1.85:1 aspect ratio for this AVC MPEG-4 1080p blu-ray. The colors vary in their intensity depending on the given setting of a scene. At times restrained due to the cooler tones and less saturation of an almost clinically cold school setting, and at other times, extremely vibrant when Larry approaches the Canadian border with his son and brother in a dream sequence. The Coen Bros have always created visually stunning films, and "A SERIOUS MAN" while not as stunning as the best, still impresses. Detail is elaborate in every scene, and there are only a few instances when the image falls flat.
UNIVERSAL has provided a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix for this release. While dynamic range in this lossy mix is excellent, it has a decidedly front center emphasis. The Carter Burwell score is excellent and even haunting. Surrounds and discrete effects are impressive when utilized, but the song "SOMEBODY TO LOVE" is given the most prominent emphasis any song has probably ever been given in a film, and it pays off big-time!
Some extras are offered, including a feature looking at the Coen Bros and their talent. Another featurette explores the work and nearly magical accomplishments of creating the 1967 setting for the film. "HEBREW AND YIDDISH FOR GOYS" is a too brief informational section about the language used in the film.