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Fans have known for so long what to expect from the Coen Brothers that we’ve developed a sense of entitlement. When we learned that Burn After Reading wasn’t as funny as Raising Arizona, we bitched about it being an off-year film. No Country for Old Men? Too mainstream. Later, of course, we praised them both. A Serious Man, the first Coen Bros. film in recent memory that’s both painful to watch and utterly confusing, could change this dynamic. The reviews have been mixed, and while you didn’t have to be from Los Angeles to get the Dude, it helps to be Jewish to understand Larry Gopnik and the world in which he resides. But the biggest difference between this film and Coen works of yore is that it’s not something you can watch over and over again; it’s too heavy, too quirky, and—honest to God—too serious. And it might just be their best one yet.
A SERIOUS MAN shows AT 7:40 P.M. AT E STREET CINEMA, 555 11TH ST. NW. $7.50–$10. (202) 452-7672.