The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Universal - 2009
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 106 minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 1.85:1
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, Spanish/French DTS 5.1 Surround
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Starring: Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Kind, Sari Lennick, Fred Melamed, George Wyner, Adam Arkin, Simon Helberg,
Written & Directed by: Joel and Ethan Coen
Music by: Carter Burwell
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: February 9, 2010
"Are you serious?"
Academy Award®-winning directors Joel and Ethan Coen return to their comedy roots with this original and darkly humorous story about one ordinary man's quest to become a serious man. Physics professor Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) can't believe his life: His wife is leaving him for his best friend, his unemployed brother won't move off the couch, someone is threatening his career, his kids are a mystery and his neighbor is tormenting him by sunbathing nude. Struggling
to make sense of it all, Larry consults three different rabbis and their answers lead him on a twisted journey of faith, family, delinquent behavior and mortality.
The brief definition of the word crisis: a dramatic emotional or circumstantial upheaval in a person's life. This would appropriately describe the life of Larry Gopnik in A serious man. It's Minnesota in 1967. Larry Gopnik is Jewish and a sort of nebbish type that works at the local university, is married with two teenage children, and has his sickly brother, Arthur, living with him. Larry is up for tenure at work, however one of the board members infers to him that the recent receipt of anonymous letters casting Larry in a questionable light, shouldn't affect his consideration. Larry's wife Judith has announced that she wants a divorce, and that she wants him to move out and her new beau Sy to move in. His teenage children could care less, other than regularly pilfering from his wallet or only showing interest in him when it is time to adjust the aerial so that F Troop comes in clearly. Larry is being threatened with a lawsuit by the parent of a Korean student because he defamed him with a failing grade. With the world closing in Larry looks to his faith for support and seeks the counsel of three rabbis. Unfortunately Larry's search for spiritual answers is less than satisfying and he must look to his heart.
I am a fan of many Coen Brothers films, among my favorites is Fargo, O'Brother where art thou, and No country for old men. Quite honestly I knew nothing of this film going into this review. A serious man is unconventional, unpredictable and at times irreducibly bizarre in its seemingly oblique satire. It's ethnically characterized but not in an offensive way as those elements although integral remains primarily unadulterated by its darker comedic tone. I must admit that there were times that I found myself trying to find the humor in the story. I didn't understand the need for the strange opening segment nor did I care for the ending. On the other hand I did appreciate the subtle albeit outrageous moments of facetiousness that are most decidedly The Coen Brothers style. I liked the idea of using a blend of new faces mixed with many familiar character actors among the cast. I was particularly impressed with Richard Kind's portrayal of Arthur Gopnik. This is my first experience with Michael Stuhlbarg but I must say he gave a wonderful performance that anchored them all. When it was over I found myself a bit indifferent, but with a desire to revisit this film. I have always found that Coen Brothers films often require repeat viewings to glean the most from them and suspect that this is no different. There is no denying that A serious man is a memorable film regardless of whether you liked it or not. Its potential lies in its dark comedic narrative that exfoliates the turbulent human condition experienced by one man striving to be serious.
The rating is for language, some sexuality/nudity, drug content, and brief violence.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
A serious man comes to Blu-ray Disc from Universal featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 35 mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 3.1 mbps.
This is a reference quality high definition transfer that looks spectacular. Images are transparent with exquisite detail and a near infinite sense of depth. Close ups and mid level shots are incredibly detailed and revealing of even the subtlest nuance visible within facial features, clothing, and objects/backgrounds within the frame. Fidelity is never in question regardless of perspective. At times I found the visuals onscreen to be breath taking. Colors are kept within the scope of the time frame which means lots of browns, grays, greens and blacks. The splashes of bright oranges and yellows provide a welcomed respite and pop nicely. The delineated sepia toned colors have a succulent quality that reveals subtle gradations and enhances depth. Skin tones are vibrant, tonally rich and chock full of fine textural nuance. Blacks are rich, gradationally strong and dynamic which helps them pop during sequences that contained both light and dark elements. Detail in uneven light and darkened environments (such as in the Jolly Roger hotel room) reveals discerning shapes and structure in backgrounds/objects. Grain is present and maintains a filmic textural essence that presides over the presentation without intrusion. I found this to be an impressive and pristine quality high definition video presentation from Universal.
The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack yields crisp, well textured dialogue that renders even subtle variances in tonal character or vocal inflections clearly. The music featured throughout the film exhibits high level, smooth treble and appreciable refinement. The audio presentation is delivered across the front soundstage with intermittent splashes of ambience through the rear channels that broaden the sound field. Surround use isn't prevalent but atmospheric effects and occasional panning sequences create a believable listening environment that blends well with the front three channels. There isn't a lot of bass associated with this soundtrack but the mix generates palpable low frequencies when applied.
- (HD) Becoming serious - 17 minute featurette
- (HD) Creating 1967 - 13 minute production featurette
- (HD) Hebrew & Yiddish for Goys - 2 minute feature
- BD-Live enabled - Allows sharing of favorite scenes with friends, downloading trailer and more
A serious man is a dark, unconventional comedy from the minds of the Coen Brothers. Those familiar with their films will have more of an appreciation for its unique offbeat narrative which is capable of deriving humor from chaos via expose involving the human condition. While I didn't fully connect with it there is potential to be found which leaves me eager to give it another spin. It comes to Blu-ray Disc from Universal Home Entertainment featuring superlative high definition video, commendable DTS-HD Master Audio surround sound and a sparse bonus feature set that left me wanting. A serious man on Blu-ray Disc comes highly recommended for fans but I would urge those not familiar with it to rent first.
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