A Serious Man (or) How The Coen Bro’s Just Flipped us the Bird

In Essays, The Daily Drool on January 25, 2010 at 10:59 am

Okay, I might be a little bit off on my movie watching… I just saw A SERIOUS MAN tonight at the WGA (thank you Sara) and yes, it was rife with humor both dark and excluding (I’m sure that some moments were just much more amusing to those more acquainted with Jewish culture )  But at the end of it all, I walked out of the theatre with a great big sarcastic “Thanks a lot, guys” on my tongue.

Let’s just ignore the fact that the main character is so damn put upon by everyone in his life that you start hoping he’ll flip out and hack his imasculating wife/the man she’s cheating on him with/his ungrateful kids/the credit collectors/his insane mooch of a brother, to bits with a rusty ax or SOMETHING… something besides bend over and take it.  All.

Let’s ignore the fact that the movie starts out with a creepy and gasp inducing prologue that disappears as quickly as it arrived, without further explanation or pay-off, leaving you wondering if it really happened or if perhaps you imagined that strange bit…

Let’s talk instead about the end… or lack thereof… Let’s talk about The Coen Brothers’ tendency to throw convention under the bus and offer us an unresolved bit of celluloid instead.

Another dark movie without a proper ending.

Another reason to scratch your head on the way home.

Another instance of these genius rebel film makers telling Hollywood and Us to “Fuck off” with much more style and laughs than those two little words can muster.

Because they do things there own damn way.  Which they can do because they are the Coen Brothers.

The film is disjointed and without resolution… in effect mirroring the protagonist’s confusion.  He asks, and asks, and asks, and life just keeps going on without giving him any answers.  So you walk out feeling just as disatisfied as he…  As though the Coen’s are the Gods of these 105 minutes and they see no more reason to satisfy your curiosity than the rabbis, or God, do for Larry Gopnick.

It’s a trend.

Burn After Reading was another spicy and entertaining story with no more resolution than a “I don’t know what we learned” sumation that made me almost angry… angry that I paid $14 to sit through a twisty, turning, “Who’s doing what” intrigue all for an “I don’t know, you figure it out” before the credits.

And there are people sitting next to me going gaga for this, because they say that the Coens are speaking metaphorically, or allegorically, or they’re breaking the rules to illustrate a point: In BURN, it’s that all this brutality happens for naught… no one learns anything and the world keeps on wanting plastic surgery or other material prizes and I suppose in SERIOUS it’s that life keeps going whether you get an answer or not, so why waste your time asking after it?

But it calls to question (for me at least) what I want from a movie… And a big part of my hunger for stories is a resolution… an answer for the main character.  I want them to show me some wonder, some catharsis, some kind of resolution- for unlike real life, here is an opportunity to at least find some answer for the characters.  I mean, we quite literally cut off at what feels like the end of Act II in A Serious Man.  I’m sitting there, hanging, and there it comes; credits.  And I groan because those bastards have done it again… made me lean into a story only to pull the rug out from under me just as I was starting to care about which thread came next.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that were anybody else to turn in a script like this, the mentor would be quick to ask you for that missing third act.  They would sit you down and tell you “Look, you’ve got to tie this up here… this is lazy!  You brought up some big questions, now you need to at least try to answer them!”

But they’re the Coen Brothers.

So you let them bend you over and give it to you good.

Because it’s “smart.”

It’s different.

They’re rule breakers.

I’d just like to walk out of the theatre feeling like they had at least left me something other than a headache and an empty wallet… That they had other tricks up their sleeves besides dark humor and the non-ending.

I’d like to walk out of the theatre feeling moved to something other than irritation and retributive bird-flipping.


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