A Serious Man

A SERIOUS MAN of a certain age

Article: A SERIOUS MAN of a certain age

Last week I happened to see the Coen brothers’ A SERIOUS MAN and the new TNT show “Men of a Certain Age” on the very same night. The two couldn’t be more different in execution: in the Coens’ film, a flat-out signature style-fest, a rock-solid universe where nary a prop is askew, every single frame feeling conceived, composed, rehearsed, like clockwork, like buttah. “Men of a Certain Age” aims for a loose, realist, doc style in both camera technique and performance, and off-the-cuff dialogue and swish pans make it feel less like traditional TV coverage. Lurking not far beneath the surface, however, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between the two in terms of theme — two properties on the entertainment market at one moment in the zeitgeist, dealing with middle-aged men in crisis.

But not just any kind of crisis … this ain’t no AMERICAN BEAUTY carpe diem woulda-coulda-shoulda crap. In the Coens’ piece, more so than in “Men” but still present in both, is a desire to engage with serious existential questions of being.

The Coen Brothers' A SERIOUS MAN

Article: The Coen Brothers' A SERIOUS MAN

Though the rest of A SERIOUS MAN is set in late 60s suburbia, the Coen brothers take us first to a snowy night in Yiddish-speaking old country for a little morality tale. The tale, however, is less morality and more of a warning that no matter what, no matter how ludicrous and illogical she may be, the wife is always right. Flash forward to the Minnesota suburbs in 1967 where Larry Gopnik (in an incredible performance by Michael Stuhlbarg) is a middle-aged math teacher with two bratty kids and a math whiz brother (Richard Kind) who sleeps on the couch and spends most of the day draining a cyst on his neck. It’s not exactly ideal and Judith (Sari Lennick), his wife, wants a divorce. So begins the downward spiral that will consume Larry’s life.