A Serious Man (2009)

I feel like the carpet’s been yanked out from under me.

— Larry Gopnik

The Coen Brothers are notorious for having masterful dramas and dreadful comedies. The recent release of their dark comedy, A Serious Man delves more into their past growing up in 1960s Minnesota. I never heard of this film until I saw that odd trailer for it. This is movie is getting some solid notices from audiences and critics. I think myself being goyim may lessen my enjoyment of this film and it does to a certain point.

This movie has employed Jewish lore with a flashback to a turn of the century house where a husband and wife, Velvel and Dora (Allen Lewis Rickman, Yelena Shmulenson) is visited by a dybbuk in the form of Reb Groshkover (Fyvush Finkel). A dybbuk is apparently a ghost that visits a family and God forever curses them.

Once you get into the movie, you have to wonder if the couple is ancestors of Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg), because this physics professor is in flux. His brother, Arthur (Richard Kind) has a persistent cyst crashes on their couch for months. His daughter, Sarah (Jessica McManus) has been continually stealing money out of his wallet to pay for a nose job. His son, Danny (Aaron Wolf), who is about to be bar mitzvahed is a pot dealer/smoker. His wife, Judith (Sari Lennick) unexpectedly drops the bomb that she is leaving him for their mutual friend, Sy Ableman (Fred Melamed).

Sy and Judith think that is best for Larry to move out of the house to stay at a local Jolly Roger’s motel with his brother. They want to get a “get”, a spiritual divorce before the two of them get married. On top of all that, he is up for tenure at his job which it is threatened when a student, Clive (David Kang) getting a failing grade on his final exams brides him for a better grade. After Larry threatened to go the school officials about the bribery, one of the administrators, Arlen Finkle (Ari Hoptman) begins receiving defamatory letters about Larry to his office.

The movie is divided into three sections where Larry meets with different rabbis to help him cope with his shitty life. He visits the young junior rabbi, the regular rabbi, but he wants to meet the granddaddy of them all, Rabbi Marshak (Alan Mandell) to find some solace in his life.

Not being Jewish, I felt like most of this movie went over my head entirely. I wouldn’t say that I hated this movie. This movie was not made for me. That’s the biggest problem with the movie. I don’t have an “in”.

I thought that Michael Stuhlbarg was very good in the role of Larry Gopnik. His character reminded me of myself. A doormat that is sick on being stepped on. I also enjoyed the odd calmness of Sy Ableman as well.

Judgment: You have to have the inside knowledge to truly understand this movie.

Rating: ***1/2

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About Branden

Branden: I am just your average movie nut that reviews films. Gives his take on pop culture and Hollywood happenings. Dreams to have his own thriving website and make a living doing what he is passionate about.

Posted on January 19, 2010, in 2009, Academy Award Nominee, Comedy, Dark and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. And the blogs across the web unite. It seems this is an important movie to see this year. Yet, I’ve heard nothing particularly passionate in response to a viewing, just clinical reflections about a movie well made and well done. I’ll check it out even though my instincts tell me there is more interesting things to see. Thanks Branden.

    • It is a good movie, but you have to be an orthodox Jew to fully understand this movie. Tom Clift from “Plus Trailers” loved this movie and he is a teenager from Australia. I guess, you have to be on the same wavelength in terms of the dark comedy to get the movie. You should seek it out.

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