A Serious Man

"Essential"

A Serious Man Review


The Coen brothers take another sharp turn, catching us off-guard with this offbeat suburban drama that's not only a witty window into America's Jewish subculture, but also a potent exploration of the pressures of modern life.

In 1967 Minnesota, physics professor Larry Gopnik (Stuhlbarg) is struggling as squeezes in on him. His loser uncle (Kind) has taken up residence on the sofa, his wife (Lennick) has decided to run off with a local widower (Melamed), and his teen kids (Wolff and McManus) are constantly pestering him about trivialities. Meanwhile, he's waiting to hear if he'll be given tenure at work and facing some medical tests. To make sense of it all, he consults his lawyer (Arkin) and a series of rabbis (Helberg, Wyner and Mandell).

The Coens are examining their own childhood with the period and setting, as well as the ethnicity and religion. The central theme that life is essentially unknowable is echoed in an opening caption, "Receive with simplicity everything that happens to you" (Rashi), as well as a Jefferson Airplane track: "When the truth is found to be lies and all the joy within you dies, don't you want somebody to love?" The whole film mixes raw humour and wry hopefulness with a potent dose of bleak fatalism.

And it's impeccable filmmaking, with the Coens' expert writing, directing and editing enhanced by Roger Deakins' vibrant cinematography, Jess Gonchor's unfussy production design and Carter Burwell's perceptive score. It also features involving performances from the whole cast, anchored by Stuhlbarg's wonderfully matter-of-fact turn as a man who feels overwhelmed by what life is throwing at him and undercuts his growing frustration with good humour.

The constant insults hurled on him from every side are eerily recognisable, with pressures, temptations, injustices and irrational responsibilities all pushing the joy out of life. Even though Larry says and does nothing offensive, everyone treats him as if he's the cause of their woes. And since he doesn't feel guilty, he fails to stand up for himself. The Coens are such clever, observant filmmakers that they can bring out strong themes in fresh and often very funny ways that leave us entertained, shaken and provoked. Which is exactly what a good film should do.



A Serious Man

Facts and Figures

Genre: Dramas

Run time: 106 mins

In Theaters: Friday 20th November 2009

Box Office USA: $9.2M

Budget: $7M

Distributed by: Focus Features

Production compaines: Mike Zoss Productions, Focus Features, Studio Canal, Relativity Media, Working Title Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Fresh: 186 Rotten: 22

IMDB: 7.0 / 10

Cast & Crew

Starring: as Larry Gopnik, as Uncle Arthur, as Sy Ableman, Sari Lennick as Judith Gopnik, Aaron Wolff as Danny Gopnik, Jessica McManus as Sarah Gopnik, as Don Milgram, as Rabbi Nachter, Peter Breitmayer as Mr. Brandt, Brent Braunschweig as Mitch Brandt, David Kang as Clive Park, Benjamin Portnoe as Danny's Reefer Buddy, Jon Kaminski Jr. as Mike Fagle, Ari Hoptman as Arlen Finkle, Alan Mandell as Rabbi Marshak, as Mrs. Samsky

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Cars 3 Movie Review

Cars 3 Movie Review

It's been six years since the last Cars movie (there were two Planes movies in...

The Beguiled Movie Review

The Beguiled Movie Review

In her inimitable loose style, Sofia Coppola remakes the 1971 Clint Eastwood movie from a...

War for the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

War for the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

The surprisingly thoughtful prequel trilogy comes to a powerful conclusion with this robust, dramatic thriller,...

It Comes At Night Movie Review

It Comes At Night Movie Review

This sharply original horror film not only approaches its premise from an unexpected angle, but...

Okja Movie Review

Okja Movie Review

As Tilda Swinton reteams with her Snowpiercer director, Korea's Bong Joon Ho, it's perhaps unsurprising...

Spider-Man: Homecoming Movie Review

Spider-Man: Homecoming Movie Review

This may be the third reboot of this franchise in 15 years, risking audience exhaustion,...

Despicable Me 3 Movie Review

Despicable Me 3 Movie Review

Actually the fourth film in the series (don't forget the prequel Minions), this animated super-villain...

Advertisement
Baby Driver Movie Review

Baby Driver Movie Review

Wildly energetic and so cool it hurts, this action movie has been put together in...

All Eyez On Me Movie Review

All Eyez On Me Movie Review

There's a clear sense that this Tupac Shakur biopic is hoping to build on the...

Hampstead Movie Review

Hampstead Movie Review

Deliberately appealing to older audiences, this undemanding comedy-drama comes with a hint of social relevance...

The Book of Henry Movie Review

The Book of Henry Movie Review

Apparently, this offbeat script had been making the rounds in Hollywood for some 20 years...

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

With this fifth Transformers movie, it seems clear that Michael Bay is still trying to...

Churchill Movie Review

Churchill Movie Review

This drama about the iconic British prime minister tells a darkly personal story set over...

Gifted Movie Review

Gifted Movie Review

This is one of those films that dances right up to the edge of soapy...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.