Feb 8, 2010

The Govinda's Experience, and A Serious Man

Kieran took me out for a pre-birthday treat to Govinda's Restaurant and Movie Room in Darlinghurst yesterday, where we dived into an international vegetarian buffet before spreading our legs across an extremely comfortable lounge in their boutique cinema and watched the Coen Brothers' A Serious Man. The night was meant to be a surprise, but let's say curiosity caught the best of me.

The whole cinema experience at Govinda's was great. Enlightening, even. Apart from almost dying of a heat stroke in the cinema (there were no A/C units. Just a fan), the lounge bed-like things spiked my comfort levels through the roof and worked as the perfect complement to the filling vegetarian buffet dinner that Govinda's provided in the costs. I recommend anyone to check this place out. Govinda's is located at 112 Darlinghurst Road, just a 10 minute walk from Taylor Square.

Now, the movie. The Coen Brothers' latest film, A Serious Man is a dark, funny and clever take on life. The story revolves around Jewish professor Larry Gopnik, who watches his life unravel into a mess of unexplained misfortune - his wife leaves him for a widowed man more able than himself; his inept wife's brother won't move out of their living room; a college student of his is bribing and blackmailing him over a failing grade; and his son, preparing for his bar mitzvah, smokes more weed than he is seen studying the Torah.

We learn, as does Larry Gopnik, that every action has a consequence. This film is about just that, and tends to question our beliefs in religion - although, not quite so seriously. That's what I love about this film. This film made me laugh at the misfortune of the characters, while letting me feel fine about it afterward.

The Coen Brothers are fantastic. I loved the directing. Even the cinematography by Roger Deakins (Revoluntionary Road, No Country For Old Men, Shawshank Redemption) was something special. Michael Stuhlbarg should be highly commended for his portrayal of Larry Gopnik. In a dark comedy setting, Stuhlbarg remained consistent in convincing me that his life was most definitely falling apart. The other stand out performance for me was by Fred Melamed who plays the uncomfortably calm and able Sy Ableman, who Larry's wife leaves him for.

The film just worked for me. Having never seen any of the Coen Brothers' previous films, my judgment could have holes in it. I was told, and I have heard, that the Brothers are famous for their black comedies, and for breaking the rules of conventional storytelling. At the end of A Serious Man, a lot of the audience that I shared this film experience with were surprised by how the film almost lacked a conclusion, signaled by the flood of what's and is that it?'s. The film does end with a lot of unanswered questions, yet for me, the film's message (and lesson, even) was clear.

This is another film I highly recommend seeing. If you're after a clever, dark comedy that questions you about the seriousness of life while you laugh - this is for you.

I rate this 9/10.

(That being said, all my film reviews seem to be of films I enjoyed. I'll write about the next awful one I see, I promise)

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