On DVD: A Serious Man

A Serious Man is the Coen brothers' fourteenth feature film. It is a new treatment of themes that have characterized much of their work. The thematic material I'm referring to is difficult to describe, because the Coens embrace the ambiguous and avoid the didactic. The Coens' dark and often pessimistic worldview has something in common with that usually ascribed to Stanley Kubrick, although the Coens' humor and style - among other things - make their work distinct from Kubrick's and everyone else's. A Serious Man takes these pet themes - many of which show up in different forms in their Oscar-winning No Country for Old Men, and other Coen films - and re-casts them in a new milieu, shedding light on certain things having to do with inevitability, fate, suburbia, and personal integrity. The Minnesota natives, in a way, seem to be providing an "answer" of sorts to that other storytelling son of their home state, Garrison Keillor. Whereas Keillor's witty, nostalgic homilies are fond and generous, the Coens' film is a metaphysical mailbomb disguised as a love letter.

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