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Serious Man

A movie directed by the Coen Brothers.

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The Coen Brothers Show Their Versatility, But Leave More to be Desired...

  • Feb 17, 2010
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Every time a Coen Brothers film comes out, they seem to go in this bad, good and decent order.  For example take No Country for Old Men; how that movie ever won best picture is beyond me because it was straight up terrible.  Then came Burn After Reading which was really good and funny.  Finally, A Serious Man comes out not to long ago and doesn't get a lot hype but none the less, the film is decent and gets nominated for best picture.  Now, does it deserve a best picture nod?  No, probably not, but 75% of Hollywood is Jewish and seeing as how A Serious Man is about a Jew and his family...well you get the idea.  Having grown up Jewish and having gone through a Bar Mitzvah, I actually found the first 45 minutes of the film hilarious.  There would be bits I'd be laughing at out of nowhere because I got the subtle Jewish humor and they didn't.  Then came the rest of the film which turned out to be not funny at all and in fact quite serious (hence the title) and at times, just plain dull.  Seeing as how the film is billed as a dark comedy, you only get those 45 minutes of laughs in until you end up wanting to put a bullet in Larry's head to put him out of his misery.  Was the movie good?  eh...kinda, but that's about it.

Larry Gopnick (Michael Stuhlbarg) is in the shit.  His wife Judith (Sari Lennick) wants to divorce him to be with his colleague Sy Ableman (Fred Melamed) and he has a foreign student leaving him bribes to change his grade.  With his brother Arthur living (Richard Kind) in their house, things cannot get any worse for Larry.  With his life in question, a son who is about to get a Bar Mitzvah who steals money out of his wallet to by weed and a daughter who subsequently steals to pay for a nose job, Larry doesn't know what to do except to seek advice from his attorney and three different Rabbis, attempting to turn him into a serious and devoted man.

Even the write up of the film is kind of dull, but it doesn't take away the first truly entertaining 45 minutes of the film.  Michael Stuhlbarg is really good in the film as is the rest of the cast.  It's actually a bit surprising that none of the actors in A Serious Man  received acting nods this year.  The only other Oscar the film is up for is writing, which is a little stunning seeing as how the film was only half a movie.  What's surprising is that it doesn't seem like the Coen Brothers take their time with scripts to get out one great movie every few years.  Instead they opt to just keep pushing out films that instead are just decent and sometimes, a big pile of trash.  A Serious Man actually is a hard movie to talk about due to the fact that the film is all dialogue, which if done right (I.E. Inglourious Basterds), can be a good thing, but with A Serious Man, just doesn't work.

A Serious Man is really only going to be funny if your a Jew and I'm sorry about that.  The Coen Brothers decided to release a film that catered to a certain demographic and it's a let down.  If you're an Oscar snob like me, then you shouldn't miss the film because it definitely has its moments.  Unfortunately, if you're not a Jew or didn't grow up around Jewish people, this movie is going to fall short for you.  It's really a shame because A Serious Man isn't a bad movie, it's just not very good, and could have been a lot better.  This is the second best picture nominated film that I have seen now that I don't think deserves to be on the list.  A Serious Man is available on Blu-ray at for $19.49.  3/5.
The Coen Brothers Show Their Versatility, But Leave More to be Desired...

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August 29, 2010
Accurately summed up. I watched this and felt sullied, somehow. The talents of the Coens appear as you show towards a mish-mash (speaking of Yiddishisms) of good people cut down harshly but done in a provoking way that gets us implicated in their confusions even as (not so much in "Country") they're played out for the directors' mockery. I don't know why their movies are going in this sadistic direction, but they seem very self-satisfied. The potential here was enormous for a powerful fable, but squandered and erratic in its presentation as another Hollywood-receptive "revelation" of how the MOTs conspire against the goyim before they get what's coming to them.
More A Serious Man reviews
review by . October 27, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Finally, in my chronological journey through the Coen Brothers body of work, I come to the latest of their movies (surely not the last, which would be a cause for mourning).  If you have followed my reviews, you know that I find the core of the work (and the best of it) is about finding and understanding identity (See my review of Burn after Reading for a summary of my reviews to that point)..      In Serious Man, they return to their time (mid 60s), place (Midwest) and …
review by . November 22, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
**** out of ****      "A Serious Man" proves that the Coen Brothers are some of the best two filmmakers living. They have impressed me in the past and they have disappointed me; a nice mix, if you ask me. They have had their triumphs, their successes, and then their lesser efforts. "A Serious Man" is one of their best by all means, being a thought-provoking piece of story-telling with not a boring moment to spare. I was seriously hooked every moment of the …
review by . February 20, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
When Charlie Brown met Job
Why do bad things happen to good people?  After watching A Serious Man, I realized that it isn't so much that only the good people are the ones who have bad things happen to them, but that we care when they do.  We don't care about the bad things that happen to bad people, unless they're an anti hero.       A Serious Man is arguabbly most mature of the Coen Brothers movies, saving the skittish characters and the worst eccentricies for another …
review by . July 22, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
What Pompted You to write a Review?      I really like this movie, but its not very well known How was the Plot, Acting, Direction?      Perfect, it was funny, everyone was very good at acting Were You ENTERTAINED?      yes, it was a very interesting story, I never looked at my watch Did It Fulfill Expectations? Hype Level?      I didn't have very high expectations, I knew it was nominated for best picture and …
review by . July 02, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Nothing at all, nothing      Cons: Every every every little and last thing.      The Bottom Line: Simply awful, no need to say more.      Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot. Joel and Ethan Coen have sold their souls to a haphazard soulshark. Rather than giving up their whole souls for permanent triumphs, they have bargained to make at least one very bad movie for every very good one. …
Quick Tip by . August 29, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
I thought this would work, but like "Burn After Reading" or "Barton Fink" it let me down. The Bros Coen keep getting more self-hating about their Jewish suburban angst; this curdles their arch narratives. Their smugness given their status as critical darlings contrasts with how Philip Roth or Bernard Malamud's novels from this 60s period managed critique of this oft-critiqued milieu without making you feel cheapened. Parts of this film were great, as in the twists at the …
Quick Tip by . July 24, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Jewish College Professor has his life coming apart at the seams as he copes with what is supposed to be lifes mysteries and too often not finding the right solutions. Fantastic cast and film.
Quick Tip by . July 12, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
This film gets under your skin because you realize elements of your life are not much different from the characters in this movie set in the 1960's.
review by . March 08, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
You fervent movie buffs all know by now that the Coen Brothers grew up Jewish in Minnesota. They 'know' Minnesota to the bone; they proved that in "Fargo", still my favorite among their films for its deep understanding of the Minnesota conviction that decency will prevail over depravity, even if only by naive luck. But I was born in Minnesota and spent part of my childhood there, so I have an insider's response to that depiction. The Coen Brothers' films about the Deep South and Southern California …
Quick Tip by . March 27, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
A very funny and bizarre look at the life of a Jewish man and his dysfunctional family and neighbors. Very original!
About the reviewer
Julian Brown ()
Hi, my name is Julian Brown. I currently write for The Brotherly Game, a local Philadelphia soccer website where I cover the US Women's National Team and the local WPS Philadelphia Independence. I … more
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About this movie


A Serious Man is a black comedy feature film written, produced, and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. It is due to be released on October 2, 2009, in the United States.

The film is set in St. Louis Park, Minnesota in the year 1967, and is intended in some ways to reflect the childhood of the Coen brothers as they recall it.

The protagonist is Larry Gopnik, a Jewish academic living in a middle-class Jewish neighborhood in a Minneapolis suburb. The story follows Gopnik's spiritual and existential struggle as his wife Judith contemplates leaving him for his colleague Sy Ableman. Adding to his suffering is his ne'er-do-well brother, Arthur, who lacks the resources and the ability to care for himself and consequently lives on Larry's couch. Larry begins to question the value of his life as he deals with these and other trials, including his son, Danny, who steals money from his wallet to buy marijuana; his daughter, Sarah, who steals to finance a planned nose job; a student who alternately attempts to bribe him for a passing grade and threatens to sue him for defamation (made all the worse because Larry is up for tenure); and a female neighbor who distracts him by sunbathing in the nude. Larry seeks advice from three different rabbis in an attempt to solve his problems and to become an austere and devoted man.
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Release Date: 2009
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: February 09, 2010
Runtime: 1hr 46min
Studio: Universal Studios
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