The Coen Brothers are smart. While the critical community has been arguing about the merits of Burn After Reading, which opens wide tomorrow, Joel and Ethan are already knee deep in their next production. A Serious Man started filming in their home state of Minnesota on Monday.
The project was announced in the spring of 2007, just before No Country for Old Men debuted at Cannes. Last month we learned that relatively little-known Michael Stuhlberg and Richard Kind had been cast in the lead roles in the black comedy set in 1967, with Stuhlberg playing a professor whose wife is leaving him, and Kind playing his sofa sleeping brother. While Christopher expressed his hope that Frances McDormand would be playing the wife, that role has gone to Sari Wagner (identified as Sari Lennick by IMDb), one of a trio of seriously unknown Minnesota actors cast in the film, according to an official statement released by Focus Features. The statement also says that the wife has fallen for one of her husband's "more pompous colleagues," who will be played by Fred Melamed.
The other two Minnesota thespians are Aaron Wolf and Jessica McManus, who will be Kind's son ("a discipline problem and a shirker at Hebrew school") and daughter ("filching money from his wallet in order to save up for a nose job"), respectively. I think it's refreshing that the Coens have chosen to go with actors who don't have any previous, sometimes distracting baggage.
As to Burn After Reading, I agree with the quite positive views of Kim and James; I think it's a frequently hilarious and surprisingly insightful "must see." If you still need convincing, listen to the Coens talk about it over at Moviefone. Here's hoping A Serious Man will provoke the same type of response next year.