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Serious Man

A movie directed by the Coen Brothers.

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"We're gonna be fine..."

  • Nov 22, 2010
**** 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 film, and I rarely am. The film makes you want to understand it while many things are clear; one of those things being the ending. People get tied up in knots trying to "get" movies like this, although paying attention throughout should do it for most people. It has been proven that American film-goers in general no longer want to "think" while they watch a film; therefore they'd rather get explosions and sexuality than artistic finesse. It comes to show that not everyone has so succumb to the pressure of money making. Some of those people who don't "succumb" are the Coen Brothers; the dynamic duo behind "Fargo" and "Blood Simple". This is a better follow-up to their indefinite masterpiece, "No Country for Old Men", than "Burn After Reading" ever was. That should not entail that "Burn After Reading" was not worthy of praise, because I quite liked it, but how does one back up a masterpiece such as "No Country for Old Men"? I mean, really. Anyways, the Coen Brothers have done it again; they have riveted me. They have made me think to such extents, challenging me intellectually until I feel that my brain is exhausted. I like that. Very few directors can do such a thing for me yet provide me with unending amounts of entertainment. This is one of the absolute best films of 2009 and possibly one of the best of the decade; a perfect example of what the Coen Brothers can do with a movie camera. They can capture a film and watch it be put into motion with ease; something which I can only hope to do. And they manage to add a surrealistic, psychological feel to "A Serious Man", making it a thought-inducing experience indeed.

The film opens with a segment in which there is a family of two jews. The husband comes back one snowy night to tell his wife of some news; he has reunited with an old friend. This man is presumed to be dead, although the husband laughs at his wife's superstition. He has invited the man back to his house for soup to warm him up, and the man takes him up on the offer. After questioning him, the wife stabs the man, accusing him of being a dybbuk (A demon in Jewish Mythology). This leaves the man to walk into the night, bleeding. Many centuries later, a Jewish man named Larry Gopnik comes into the picture. He is married with two children, and his brother Arthur is living in the living room. Larry is a College Professor who isn't quite getting along as good as he would like. A student of his is attempting to sue him for a bad grade, his son is doing pot behind his back, his daughter is saving up for a "nose job", and his wife is considering a divorce. This sudden action may be due to Larry's own LACK of true action; meaning that the couple simply doesn't DO anything these days. His wife's new love interest is his best friend Sy Ableman, a "serious man". This comes to a shock to poor Larry as he feels that God is punishing him through these events. Due to his unending amounts of questions, Larry consults various Rabbis for assistance. After all; a normal man cannot cope with such things. Larry is told stories of certain similarities, one involving a man who found a message engraved in the back of a man's teeth. This story is played for laughs and gives little meaning to the overall story of the film, but it gets along fine as it is. The entire film is like a self-quest for Larry, who runs into various problems along the way. Crucial problems. There is literally not a dull moment to spare in the film's entirety. Every instant is either crucial or interesting. You cannot blink, for if you do, you could miss something. The Coen Brothers have written their most personal piece yet; a film based upon their own personal religious beliefs. My own religious tendencies are my own business, although I did not feel distant from Joel and Ethan Coen's story. Others have claimed that they were, however I do not feel the same way at all. In fact, I felt close to it; perhaps closer than a non-Jewish man such as myself should be.

Michael Stuhlbarg provides to us a breakthrough performance as Larry Gopnik. Stuhlbarg's frantic and consistently funny character is as endearing as he is interesting; a true character indeed. There is a lot to look at when it comes to his character alone, given how much possible background the guy has. Fred Melemed did the best, I thought, as Sy Ableman. Sy's character was funny as hell; a guy who you can't help but like due to his ability to care a bit too much about people. He's just that kind of guy, I suppose. Simon Helberg makes a strong cameo, and the rest of the cast is down-right spectacular. Everyone, from the younger talents to the older talents, is wonderful. Keep 'em coming, Coen Brothers. Keep 'em coming.

One theme I have noticed while re-claiming my love for the Coen Brothers is their signature theme of "dreams". Their films often times use surrealistic atmosphere to accomplish a dream like aura; one that can often times overshadow the film itself in so many ways. There are many of these dream-like moments in "A Serious Man", a good majority of which you wouldn't guess were dreams at first. But then again, most of those moments are too random and too good to be true to begin with. Anyways, "A Serious Man" features more of the flawless Camera Work of the dynamic filmmaking duo; a masterful achievement in modern cinematography. As I said before, there is literally not a boring moment to spare. Every shot is interesting; thus every SCENE is interesting. It is new and intriguing to see a movie be consistently amusing through its artistic craft, and this is one of those films. They come along every so often, I suppose. I love the Coen Brothers for their artistic craft and love them even more for their ability to tell a story and create quirky, funny characters as if out of thin air. Not many people can do that so easily, since most people seem to over-complicate their characters with stereotypes and the like. The film also has a great soundtrack, most of it non-existent, but then again there's a Jefferson Airplane song titled "Somebody to Love". I love that song, and why it was included in this film I will never know: but what can you do, right? After all: this is a thing of beauty. Why ruin it with one too many ridiculous questions?

I love "A Serious Man" so much because it truly is a consistent art house; a showcase of what a man can do with both ends of the movie camera in-tact. The cast does great, the directors do great; hell, the film does great. It's one of the best of its year and one of the greatest of its decade, maybe. It's that good. The Brothers have created an intellectually satisfying self-quest-tale of a Jewish man just trying to find meaning in his existence while helping others find theirs. He comes to the realization that perhaps nobody has answers to his life-questions, and maybe God has made it so. Maybe the people in the beginning of the film were his ancestors. It is never determined, but the ending seems to entail the like. I greatly recommend that you see this, whoever you may be. This is a marvel of true filmmaking; a rare and flawless cinematic occasion. It can not be and should not be missed by anyone. After all: why would one want to miss a great film? A perfectly HILARIOUS film? It leads me to wonder why people will pay to see "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" and not this beauty. Maybe we're just mad, as Americans. Yeah, that's probably it. But if you spend any money to see "A Serious Man"; you should know that you will not and have not wasted it. Consider it money well spent. I leave you with that.

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December 05, 2010
Indeed, they did a great job here.
December 06, 2010
Yeah. I seriously loved it.
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 . 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. …
review by . February 17, 2010
The Coen Brothers Show Their Versatility, But Leave More to be Desired...
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? …
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
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #3
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … 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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