A Serious Man (2009)

Made me feel like I was Jewish.

Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) has hit a “rough patch,” according to a colleague, and it would seem so: people are dropping dead all around him, his wife (Sari Lennick) wants a “get” and his whining kids (Aaron Wolff and Jessica McManus) only add to the heavy load. Larry is just looking for some help. Can a few rabbis guide him to life’s answers?

This is a Coen Brothers film and is one of their oddest, and most different attempts at the world they create. There is a lot of nice uses of dark humor here that actually work. The screenplay is highly rich with detail about this guy’s life and once again, with plenty of off-beat dark humor that takes awhile to get used to and understand.When it comes to making hilarious stereotypes, Coens do the job right.

The one thing I have to really praise about this film as usual is the wonderful direction from the Coen Brothers. Almost everyone that they cast is just cast perfectly with their looks, and even by the way they act. This is probably one of the most specific in detail films from the Coens, and their films are already specific enough. The movie also brings up a nice reminder of how we sometimes believe blindly in things because we are told to by religion.

However, I did have some major problems with this film. I felt like this guy was such a deuche for actually letting all this horrible shit happen to him. Many times, I just wanted to grab him by the head and tell him to grow a pair and take charge in his life. Also, the film has a problem with which some other Coen Brother films don’t, it doesn’t feel like its going anywhere, and if it is, its nowhere special. You are left wondering where this story is going, and I didn’t get any answers – it seemed to be a slice of life type story that just starts and ends and has twists and turns galore. Everything does seem to have meaning, but no one can tell you exactly what it is.

Michael Stuhlbarg plays the lead and handles it very well. He doesn’t play this type of character so depressing to the point where you can’t even acknowledge him, instead he plays this character with sure realism. Everybody else is pitch-perfect with their performances adding more and more of detail to their characters.

Consensus: A Serious Man is flawed and at times left without a clue, but is darkly hilarious, richly written by the Coens, and perfectly acted by its cast, especially Stuhlbarg.



  1. Excellent review and you hit it on the nail that the main character is just laying down in the face of adversity. That made it harder for me to empathize with his situation. In all, it was a well acted movie but I didn’t care enough about any of the characters. It was also really heavy on the Jewish esoteric.

  2. The movie to me, seemed to be a very cynical criticism on Rabbis, Hebrew school, and various other aspects of Judaism that the Coen brothers dealt with in their youth. Not necessarily Judaism itself but the so called spiritual leaders that offer nothing more than nonsensical anecdotes, pat responses as substitutes for actual spiritual advice, or just flat out ignorance of those that desperately need help. And A Serious man did an excellent job mocking these things that upset the Coen brothers. I thought it was hilarious all the way through.

    Also I saw that the movie was an interpretation of the Book of Job, which has the message that events don’t necessarily have any special meaning, they just happen.

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