“Academy Award®-winning directors Joel and Ethan Coen return to their comedy roots with this original and darkly humorous story about one ordinary man’s quest to become a serious man. Physics professor Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) can’t believe his life: His wife is leaving him for his best friend, his unemployed brother won’t move off the couch, someone is threatening his career, his kids are a mystery and his neighbor is tormenting him by sunbathing nude. Struggling to make sense of it all, Larry consults three different rabbis and their answers lead him on a twisted journey of faith, family, delinquent behavior and mortality.”
“A Serious Man” is rated R for language, some sexuality/nudity and brief violence.
I do think Jewish audiences are going to enjoy this a lot more than non-Jewish or ‘goy’ audiences. They’ll probably see things in the movie that reflect their own experiences growing up and that understandably makes it more enjoyable for them. But without that nostalgia coming into play, “A Serious Man” lacks something.
All that being said, this film does have a good cast that delivers strong performances. Michael Stuhlbarg nails his performance as Larry Gopnik. He’s meek and utterly blindsided by the events of the film. Despite his cluelessness, he’s still likable. Fred Melamed is also a great big screen villain as Sy Ableman. He sweet-talks Larry and is cordial with him while stabbing him in the back and stealing his wife. You’ll want to see him hit by a bus within a minute of meeting him. Aaron Wolff is also memorable as Danny Gopnik, Larry’s son facing a Bar mitzvah while stoned. The rest of the supporting cast is also quite good.
I suppose I’d recommend this movie to Jewish indie film fans and die-hard Coen fans. They are the ones who will be most forgiving of the film’s faults.
The bonus features on the Blu-ray are fairly minimal, but they cover most of the aspects of the film that you’ll care about. “Becoming Serious” is a ‘making of’ featurette and in it the Coens admit that the opening sequence is pretty much stand-alone and has nothing to do with the rest of the movie. “Creating 1967” talks about the challenges of making the costumes, cars, and other stuff authentic to 1967. “Hebrew and Yiddish for Goys” is pretty self explanatory. While some of the Hebrew terms are well known, other terms used in the film need definitions for goys like me.