- Life is hard. Really hard.
- Timing is everything.
- People you love will disappoint you.
- Bad things happen to good people.
- Only time will reveal whether a particular incident happened for good or for bad. Things that seem bad in the present could turn out later to be blessings.
- Perception is reality. Different people may view the same person or event in totally different ways.
- Why would a just God pile so much crap on one person?
Larry Gopnick (Broadway veteran Michael Stuhlbarg) is one of the most memorable characters this reviewer has seen in recent cinema. He's up for -- and worried about -- tenure; has an unhappy and unfaithful wife and two of the whiniest, most self-centered teenagers -- one a pothead -- at home; a student who may be trying to bribe him; a down-on-his-luck brother who's moved in; money troubles; and is getting unrelenting phone calls from Columbia Records.
Larry's woes worsen during the course of the film. He seeks answers from rabbis and a divorce attorney, only to discover there really are no answers. The Coen brothers are the perfect filmmakers to send their hero out on a spiritual quest that comes up empty -- and find humor in it.
Watching Larry's undoing made me uncomfortable. Not since Matthew Broderick lost his mind, due to the over-achieving Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) in Election, has a movie hero fallen this far, this fast.
The entire ensemble cast is great, but it's Stuhlburg's movie. He plays Larry with a quizzical, pained expression that grows more pained and more perplexed over time.
I either love the Coens (Fargo) or hate them (Burn after Reading) and, so, was reluctant to see their latest offering. Now, I can't stop thinking about it, and the Manor Theater manager told me no movie they've shown this year has generated as much conversation. I urge you ... see it!