A Serious Man DVD: Review By Evan "Mushy" Jacobs

These are the people in the airplane!
  • OVERALL
    4.5
    SUPERB
  • Feature
  • Picture
  • Sound
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
THE GOOD
The Coen Bros. have made yet another remarkably brilliant film.
THE BAD
Since it doesn't conform to convention it will largely be ignored. No commentary track.
THE FEATURE
Larry Gopnick is what we Jews would call a put upon man. He has a wife who is leaving him, kids he doesn't understand, he has problems at work, his brother lives on his couch and seems to have no desire to get off of it... and Larry must shoulder all of this and conduct himself as if nothing too terrible is happening. In fact, that seems to be what everybody expects from him. On top of this, Larry is finding that he is questioning his faith in the lord and when he tries to meet with various Rabbis to help him discuss his feelings, he is given answers but that are basically answers given back to Larry in the form of the questions he is asking.

At the heart of A Serious Man is the idea that you can do everything right and bad things happen, you can do nothing right and great things happen, and you can do nothing... but something will happen. Or not... This movie doesn't provide easy answers nor does it strive to. It seems blissfully happy presenting us with these characters and it is up to us to decide who they are, why they are and ultimately how they fare in this world of the Brothers Coen.

As somebody who grew up as a reformed Jew, spent some time with the Chabad/Lubavitch Jews shown in this film, and finds himself caught between two worlds, I loved A Serious Man. This movie is Joel and Ethan Coen at their best. They love to give us situations and characters and just when we get comfortable they pull the rug out from under us. A lot of people have a problem with this. Even more will have a problem with this movie's ending.

What is the answer? What does it all mean?

That is the whole point, boychik. No go study.
THE EXTRAS
Featurettes

Focus has put two featurettes on this release that cover a lot of the same ground. They are:

- Becoming Serious

- Creating 1967

Both of these featurettes examine the formative years of the Coen brothers. They look at the personal aspects of A Serious Man that the brothers layered into the film. While Creating 1967 looks more at the nuts and bolts of getting that time period on film, both of these featurettes are linked by the idea that they are taking us into the Coen's past. These featurettes were interesting to watch but I really would've rather have gotten a commentary track from them. I don't want answers to this film... I love the ambiguity. It just would be interesting to hear them talk about this movie that is obviously close to both of them.

Hebrew and Yiddish for Goys
THE VIDEO
Anamorphic Widescreen: 1.85:1. This movie looked pretty good in standard definition. I didn't see any hits in any of the images and nothing about the picture ever seemed to falter. I saw this movie in the theater and I think that things looked pretty similar. The Coens and their director of photography Roger Deakins (he also shot No Country For Old Men, The Big Lebowski and Fargo among other Coen brothers films) have done an excellent job bringing the world of 1967 to the big screen. Nothing felt too stilted or dyspeptic and by casting up this film with largely an unknown cast of characters, that made going into the world of this movie that much easier.
THE AUDIO
English, Spanish, French Dolby Digital 5.1. Subtitles in English, Spanish and French. The audio on this release was also good. The Coen brothers really know how to use the audio to take us into the heads of the characters. In fact, so much of their movies they use ambient noise that when they do use music (be it a score or in this film, Jefferson Airplane), it has a direct correlation not just to the specific scene on the screen but to the text and subtext of the film itself.
THE PACKAGE
Larry Gopnick stands on his roof looking down. While this image, that was also used to market the movie upon its release, isn't going to help shatter box office records, it deftly captures the mood and tone of this movie. The back features four images from the film, a description of what A Serious Man is about, a bunch of critic's accolades, a bonus features listing, a cast list and technical specs.
THE FINAL WORD
You don't have to be Jewish to enjoy A Serious Man... but it helps. And even that's debatable.

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