Dave's Rating:

4.5

A movie mitzvah.

Who's In It: Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Kind, Fred Melamed, Sari Lennick, Adam Arkin, Aaron Wolff, Jessica McManus

The Basics: Welcome to The Book of Job, 1967-style. A beleaguered physics professor (Michael Stuhlbarg) finds out that his wife wants a divorce so she can marry a pompous creep, his son's upcoming bar mitzvah is in jeopardy because all the kid wants to do is smoke weed and watch F-Troop, his daughter screams day and night and steals his money to save up for a nose job, his unemployed brother is sleeping on the family couch indefinitely, a student is trying to bribe and threaten him for a higher grade in class, the neighbor lady keeps flashing her boobs at him, someone is writing disparaging letters about him to the tenure committee, no rabbi wants to help him and... a tornado's coming?

What's The Deal: Directors Joel and Ethan Coen, just when you thought you had them pegged as the guys who take little people and their dumb lives and mock them mercilessly for it all--save for that tense, existential horror detour with No Country For Old Men--have turned around and figured out a way to take a highly specific subculture, in this case a community of conservative, observant Jews, and make you laugh out out and simultaneously squirm with so much pained empathy that you'll feel worn out by the time the final credits roll. You never thought you'd be so entertained by the sad mysteries of human suffering, but you're about to discover otherwise.

Where You've Seen These People Before: Nowhere. Unless you're a serious, hardcore New York theater-goer, no one but Adam Arkin and Richard Kind (Spin City) will be familiar to you. They're all either newcomers or, in the case of Michael Stuhlbarg, a Tony nominee and a veteran of New York theater. Considering that he will most likely get an Oscar nomination for his perfectly baffled performance here, you'll be seeing him in more movies soon. He's seriously that great.

I Love Press Notes That Come With A Glossary:

Even though I live in Los Angeles, I'm still mostly a dumb goy who moved into an apartment with a mezuzah already attached to the doorframe and left it there and still had to go to Chabad.org to find out that it was just Yom Kippur. But now, from watching this movie and reading the notes, I know what a Gettis (a ritual divorce) and that Hashem is what you call God when you're not allowed to say the name of God. And if they're not handing out that glossary at the theater where you see it, then that website really is a wealth of information. Unless you're already Jewish and then this is all old news to you.

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