“The short version:
A ridiculously great movie. Funny as hell. I really loved this one.
The long version:
This is a phenomenal film. Is it too much to ask that it become a big success? Is that at all possible?
Larry Gopnik is comfortable. He doesn’t get a lot of respect from many folks around him, but he’s achieved something and is maintaining it. He’s even up for tenure at the university where he is a professor. So it comes as a great shock to him that not everyone around him is happy with the status quo.
His wife wants a divorce, and has gone so far as to find his replacement (someone for whom she DOES have respect). Someone has been sending letters, urging the university against granting him tenure. He’s forced to move into a divey motel with his mostly useless brother and his sebaceous cyst. Things that seemed stable, are no longer.
And I guess that’s what the movie is about – what does one do, when the illusion of stability is taken away?
Michael Stuhlberg is a total revelation as the put-upon Gopnik. He is absolutely perfectly cast here, and turns in a smart, funny and sensitive performance. He has a silent movie star’s face and needs to be shot in black and white at some point.
The movie itself is screamingly funny at points. If you like the Coen Brothers’ sense of humor, you will revel in this film. They get everything right here. The ‘Tale of the Goy’s Teeth” in particular, is a killer sequence. The audience was in hysterics.
As a goy, myself, there were quite a few moments of jewish ephemera with which I was not particularly familiar, but none of it seemed to be need-to-know. I didn’t feel left behind at any point by some inexplicable practice. I don’t think the niche setting should in any way preclude a niche audience.
If there’s anything that keeps the film from being practically perfect, it is the inclusion of the accursed “all-just-a-dream” sequences. And not just one. Nothing kills the enjoyment of a movie more for me, than suddenly discovering that what I’d just seen was all just pretend. I have no issue with dream sequences – they can give more insight into what a character is going through, and give the filmmakers opportunity for visuals they may not otherwise get away with in the reality of their movie, but when we’re led to believe something is real, and it turns out it ain’t? Fuck that.
So, that brought my overall score down a bit, but in spite of that, I loved this movie unreservedly. I would make a long-term commitment to this movie if I knew it a little better. Maybe after a couple more dates? Who knows?”