Imaginatively exploring questions of faith, familial responsibility, delinquent behavior, dental phenomena, academia, mortality, and Judaism, and intersections thereof, A Serious Man is the new film from Academy Award®-winning writer/directors Joel & Ethan Coen (Best Picture, Directing and Screenplay 2007, No Country for Old Men).
This remarkable film is the story of an ordinary man’s search for clarity in a universe where Jefferson Airplane is on the radio and F-Troop is on TV. It is 1967, and Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg), a physics professor at a quiet Midwestern university, has just been informed by his wife Judith (Sari Lennick) that she is leaving him. She has fallen in love with one of his more pompous acquaintances, Sy Ableman (Fred Melamed), who seems to her a more substantial person than the feckless Larry. Larry’s unemployable brother Arthur (Richard Kind) is sleeping on the couch, his son Danny (Aaron Wolff) is a discipline problem and a shirker at Hebrew school, and his daughter Sarah (Jessica McManus) is filching money from his wallet in order to save up for a nose job.
While his wife and Sy Ableman blithely make new domestic arrangements, and his brother becomes more and more of a burden, an anonymous hostile letter-writer is trying to sabotage Larry’s chances for tenure at the university. Also, a graduate student seems to be trying to bribe him for a passing grade while at the same time threatening to sue him for defamation. Plus, the beautiful woman next door torments him by sunbathing nude. Struggling for equilibrium, Larry seeks advice from three different rabbis. Can anyone help him cope with his afflictions and become a righteous person – a mensch – a serious man?
Fresh:-Dave Calhoun, Time Out, November 16, 2011
Fresh:-Ben Kenigsberg, Time Out, November 16, 2011
Fresh:-Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out, November 16, 2011
Fresh: Joel and Ethan Coen love to play God; they put their characters through hell, torturing them endlessly and treating them with disdain before finally giving them peace (usually through death, madness or some form of imprisonment).-Simon Miraudo, Quickflix, October 27, 2010
One of the best movies in the last few years. Telling the story of a Job like figure you are emmeshed in a world where everything he tries to get an answer for is constantly be thwarted. Even in his dreams and when he turns to local Rabbi "sages", Larry can't get answers to his problems. Therefore, the viewer starts to slowly get frustrated and angry which is actually what the movie is all about. In other words, there are no answers in life, but we can accept our fate, especially if we have a sense of humor (a la the Coen Brothers).
Told in their typical comic sensibilities, the Coen Brothers strike gold again. Those of you who are familiar with "The Bog Lebowski" will see a lot of similarities only this time they go further into the genre of the "loser mentalitiy".
Beautifully acted and directed by all involved you are transported first to the world of Shalom Alecheim in the 1600s and then to America in the 1950's. Note there are some who consider this film anti-semitic, but I don't as it really is universal in its depiction of "serious" people and their lives.
Sooooo sit back, relax and enjoy the show. Keep an open mind and you just might fall in love with this film as I have.
P.S. Checkout the Amazon discussion group for more insights re this film.
One of the things I love so much about the Coen brothers is that they continue to challenge themselves (and by extension, us—the audience) and develop as filmmakers. In “A Serious Man,” they tackle some of the “big” questions—Why are we here? Why do the things that happen to us happen to us? Can we even begin to understand anything that goes in the world? And does religion or science help at all? In the hands of lesser filmmakers, asking these questions would lead to self-indulgent and pedantic movies. But the Coens choose to tell the story of Lawrence Gopnik, a modern day Job, who seems to be experiencing all that can go wrong with his family, his job, his faith, his health—he even has the Columbia House record club dunning him for payment over the phone. The script is smart, which you can always count on in a Coen brothers movie, the story is engaging, and the film itself is thought-provoking and unsettling. Heck, I’m still trying to figure out how the opening vignette relates to the main story of the film. This is a smart film for smart viewers.
Reviewer: Jim G
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