Fyvush Finkel

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A Serious Man (2009)

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A Serious Man: Kafka in Minneapolis

"We're Jews. We have that well of tradition to draw on, to help us understand. When we're puzzled we have all the stories that have been handed down from people who had the same problems." -- Mimi

"Mere surmise, sir." -- Clive

Larry Gopnik didn't do anything. In the whole movie he doesn't do anything. Not much of anything, anyway. He just wants to understand what is happening to him. So, every time he protests that he didn't do anything, he's really asking a related question: "What did I do to deserve this?" Joel and Ethan Coen's "A Serious Man" is an x-ray of Larry's life, but even the title doesn't respect him. It's a reference to another man, Sy Ableman (Fred Melamed), who is passive-aggressively taking over Larry's wife life. To add insult to injury, it seems to be a fait accompli -- just came at Larry out of the blue. And Larry, remember, hasn't done anything.

Larry (Michael Stuhlbarg) lives in a Minneapolis suburb, circa 1967-70 (between "Surrealistic Pillow" and "Santana Abraxas"). It is a flat world without curbs, without fences, without boundaries. The streets and the lawns and the houses all kind of run together, and it's hard to tell which is which. His neighbor's mowing crosses the invisible property line, infringing on Larry's grass. The TV antenna on the roof picks up all kinds of things out of the air, but "F-Troop" is not coming in clearly on channel 4. And Larry himself is becoming indistinct, as if he were breaking up and fuzzing out like the television picture.

May contain spoilers