Fern Hill, Ruth Brin, Ron Meshbesher, Marshak among the real names dropped in Coen Brothers' silly film "A Serious Man"

Maybe some day we will review a movie here on TTB, not today.

Fern Hill, Ruth Brin, Ron Meshbesher and Marshak are among the real names dropped in "A Serious Man" - the Coen brother's latest bizarre movie where the main character, Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) is the brothers' counterpart to "A Righteous Man," the biblical sufferer, Job.

We lived a block from Fern Hill Park in St. Louis Park, MN for 19 years. We knew Ruth Brin, a poet and liturgist who recently passed away. She was a serious woman but not at all in the silly sense that the Coens have cooked up in their send-up of their native hunting grounds.

Ron Meshbesher was a celebrity lawyer in the Twin Cities some years ago. He and Ruth Brin and Marshak all have names that the Coens must have liked. The use of those names has little to do with the real people. In fact nothing in the film has any resemblance to real people, living or dead. And that's totally OK with us. We used to read comic books that cost 10 cents. Now we can go see them on the big screen for $12.50.

And poor Marshak. The real one (Marvin) was (and still is) a professor of physics at the University where the brothers' dad Ed Coen taught economics. The comic book one is a rabbi who refuses to counsel Gopnick and who then lists the members of the Jefferson Airplane when he meets Gopnick's son at his bar mitzvah interview and returns to him his confiscated transistor radio. We think it was particularly mean to portray that the rabbi in the scene cannot recall Jorma's last name and that the boy has to remind him.

Accuracy. We don't think that the Talmud Torah buses had those words in Hebrew painted on their sides. The Coens land a bit harsh on characters who are Koreans and hunters. Did we really laugh at their gags? Nervous titters were heard around the Houston Street theater. We laughed at the use of the name Marshak because it is a funny name.

Seems to us like the boys had some serious hangups about rabbis, Jewish schools and bar mitzvahs. Inside the attempts at funniness, there was a story about a why bad things happen to one good person. That question is timeless and should stay that way. The story of Job has never entertained a soul - up to and including now.

We were going to criticize how the film shortchanges the women characters making them into buffoons at best. But then it isn't just the women. It's the men and the children, lawyers, professors, teachers, well it just seems to us that the Coen boys do not like people.

The film starts with an inane yiddish scene in which Fyvush Finkel plays a dybbuk. It makes as much sense as the rest of the movie, i.e., none at all.

All told let us just call this debacle, "A Serious Failure" and move on.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

I haven't seen "A Serious Man" yet. I was looking forward to it since I like some of the other Coen brother's films...

Thanks for discussing the characters. I've had the pleasure of meeting Ron Meshbesher. He's a great guy with some very interesting stories. I was happy to hear that the Coen brothers used his name in their film. Struck me as a way to honor a well-respected lawyer with an awesome name!