A Serious Man
It’s symptomatic of Joel and Ethan Coen’s withdrawal from the Hollywood culture of self-promotion and public spectacle-making that their most explicitly personal films are also their most resolutely indecipherable. Just as the 1991 puzzlebox Barton Fink can be read as a declaration of their ill ease in a studio system that elevates mediocrity and strangles art, A Serious Man can be considered as their take on growing up Jewish in the Midwest, neither at home in their surroundings or their faith. A Serious Man follows Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg), a logical Jewish college professor tested by a ridiculously cruel series of circumstances. The film offers myriad challenges to the viewer, the pervasive anti-Semitism not least among them; making matters more difficult, the film is also brilliant and immense, a toxic satire of faith and doubt loaded with devastatingly funny set pieces.