Writing in Haaretz, Uzi Silber says that the new Coen brothers film is tone deaf in the Jewish department, and is the proverbial dog at the box office:
Hyperventilating adjectives notwithstanding, A Serious Man is a relative flop: Since opening three weeks ago it’s generated box office receipts of about $2 million on a reportedly puny budget of $7 million. Why?
There were some telling chinks in the intimidating wall of reviewer conformity. The New Yorker’s David Denby writes that “except for a few moments, it’s hell to sit through,” and concludes that “as a work of craftsmanship, the movie is fascinating; in every other way, it’s insufferable.” Amen.
Similarly, Michelle Orange of Movieline.com opines that the movie is “a slog, mostly; expertly crafted and yet difficult to watch.” Amen sela.
Silber goes on at length about the film’s ostensible shortcomings (why do congregants and rabbis at a Conservative shul in suburban Minneapolis, circa 1967, keep referring to God as “Hashem”?), after kvetching that the acclaimed bros from St. Louis Park “saw it necessary to employ what they thought of as vital ‘Jewy’ items such as large and hairy moles, ears and nostrils.”Â He also paraphrases my assessment, from a phone interview last week, that A Serious Man “falls far short” of the high standard the Coens set with their previous films Fargo and The Big Lebowski.
On the other hand, local legal luminary Ron Meshbesher is mentioned in the film, along with Ruth F. Brin, our late Jewish World book critic. And Ruth’s brother-in-law, Charles Brin, who was an actor on Broadway in the ’50s, plays the Talmud Torah principal, with nameplate on his desk that reads “Turchick,” after the late David Turchick, who taught at the Minneapolis Talmud Torah for more than 40 years, but was never the school’s principal.
At RottenTomatoes, com, the film scores high on the Tomatometer, 86 percent. Locally, City Pages ran a scathing review by Ella Taylor, film critic for the Village Voice.
À Chacun Son Goût, as the French say. — Mordecai Specktor
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