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Why So Serious? The Coens answer with "A Serious Man"


A Serious Man

Larry Gopnik’s (Michael Stuhlbarg) mundane life enters the mysteries of the divine in the Coen brothers latest film “A Serious Man." For Gopnik, the head of a Jewish nuclear family during the late '60s, troubles begin when his wife Judith (Sari Lennick) says she has fallen in love with neighbor Sy Ableman(Fred Melamed). Further aggravating things, Larry’s burdensome brother Arthur (Richard Kind) appears to have nested comfortably on his brother’s couch.

Add to Larry’s woes: a petulant daughter Sarah (Jessica McManus) and pot smoking son Danny (Aaron Wolff), who prepares for his upcoming Bar Mitzvah by listening to Jefferson Airplane during Hebrew class. Legal troubles, drug use, and a very foxy nudist neighbor add to Larry's disarray.

As with most Coen brothers films, money found in apparent illicit manner serves as a red herring for moral permutations. An envelope full of cash is suspiciously placed in Larry's desk after a dispute with a student who received a failing grade. The implications behind this dubious cash plays a key role in Larry's examination of existence and faith.

“A Serious Man” is an acerbic slice-of-life piece by the morose siblings – and it's also their most thought-provoking film. Like Larry, we are eager to find the answers the Coens’ enigmatic story withholds. However, the Coens' godlike approach of concealment and reflection lets us figure out what could be encrypted in Larry’s journey without being preachy. For fans of the duo, there's still plenty of humor to remind us it's still “The Big Lebowski" guys.

“A Serious Man” has no real resolutions; neither Larry nor son Danny is off the hook. Their transgressions leave us with an uncertainty and frustration. But as the elder rabbi says to a perplexed Danny, a simple “be a good boy” serves as a decree of humility and grace that might be the point of this strange and wonderful movie all along.



Official website:

A Serious Man


Directed by: Joel and Ethan Coen
Written by: Joel and Ethan Coen
Cast: Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Kind

Source of the Bitter: John Rojas

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