By Chris Nashawaty
Updated September 30, 2009 at 04:00 AM EDT
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Wilson Webb

A Serious Man

type
  • Movie

STARRING Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Kind, Adam Arkin
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY Joel and Ethan Coen

Somewhere between the existential dread of No Country for Old Men and the stinging slapstick of Burn After Reading lies the Coen brothers’ 14th movie, A Serious Man. Only this time out, the brothers are flying below the radar. There’s no George Clooney to carry the film. No Brad Pitt on the marquee. No Javier Bardem in a bowl cut to spice up the ads. There’s just New York theater vet Michael Stuhlbarg (The Pillowman) playing Larry Gopnik, a Midwestern college physics professor in 1967 whose life starts to fall apart slowly, then all at once: His wife wants a divorce, his children are rebelling, and a student is bribing him for better grades. If this Job-like black comedy sounds familiar, that’s because Joel and Ethan Coen have been down this road before in movies such as Barton Fink. But now the story is based on someone very close to them. ”It’s loosely modeled on their father, who was an economics professor,” says Stuhlbarg. ”It’s a cross between fact and fiction, as with most of their movies.” Adds Adam Arkin, who plays Stuhlbarg’s icy attorney, ”I think this is the most personal film the Coens have ever made. I’m really interested to see what the critics have to say.” Let’s hope he didn’t just jinx it.

Episode Recaps

A Serious Man

type
  • Movie
mpaa
  • R
runtime
  • 105 minutes
director

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