A Serious Man (2009) Poster

A Serious Man (2009)

  • Rate: 7.1/10 total 52,892 votes 
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Date: 9 October 2009 (Denmark)
  • Runtime: 106 min
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A Serious Man (2009)


A Serious Man 2009tt1019452.jpg poster

  • IMDb page: A Serious Man (2009)
  • Rate: 7.1/10 total 52,892 votes 
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Date: 9 October 2009 (Denmark)
  • Runtime: 106 min
  • Filming Location: Bloomington, Minnesota, USA
  • Budget: $7,000,000(estimated)
  • Gross: $9,190,525(USA)(3 January 2009)
  • Stars: Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Kind and Sari Lennick
  • Original Music By: Carter Burwell   
  • Soundtrack: 3/5 of a Mile in 10 Seconds
  • Sound Mix: DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS
  • Plot Keyword: Divorce | Professor | Physics | Minnesota | Student

Writing Credits By:

  • Joel Coen (written by) &
  • Ethan Coen (written by)

Known Trivia

  • The names of the characters who ride the school bus with Danny Gopnik are the names of children that the Coen brothers grew up with.
  • In his argument with the Columbia House records employee over the phone, Larry Gopnik repeatedly rejects the album Abraxas by Santana. Abraxas is a Gnostic term for God, particularly a God who encompasses all things from Creator of the Universe to the Devil, and an etymological root for “abracadabra”. It is thus implied that Larry Gopnik is vehemently rejecting God and magic.
  • The criminal lawyer that Larry is told to go to, Ron Meshbesher, is actually a local lawyer in Minneapolis. He is of the firm Meshbesher and Spence. The address that is on the retainer envelope at the end of the movie is their actual downtown address.
  • When Larry is looking at his class list near the end of the movie, the last student name is Mary Zophres. Zophres is the costume designer on this film.
  • The voice of Dick Dutton, the Columbia Record Club employee who harasses Larry on the phone, is supplied by actor Warren Keith. This is the second time he has appeared in a Coen Brothers film playing a character heard only on the phone. He also supplies the voice of Reilly Diefenbach, the GMAC finance officer who calls Jerry Lundegaard in Fargo.
  • The film takes place in 1967, but both of the Columbia House selections it mentions (Santana’s “Abraxas” and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Cosmo’s Factory”) were released in 1970.
  • Tyson Bidner, the film’s location manager, was cast as the magbiah at Danny’s bar mitzvah because he had been one in real life. He said the Torah scroll was very heavy and difficult to lift above his head.
  • In the movie, three of the characters go to a restaurant called “Embers”. Embers is a restaurant chain started in Minneapolis in 1956.
  • Sarah Gopnik repeatedly talks about going to “The Whole”. The Whole is the music club in the basement of the University of Minnesota student union. It opened in the 1960s.
  • Red Owl was a real Midwest grocery store chain, with several stores in the Twin Cities area, including the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington mentioned in the movie. The Red Owl sign used in an exterior scene in the movie was a genuine antique, which unfortunately was accidentally dropped and destroyed after filming.

Goofs: Anachronisms: Toward the end of the movie the Hebrew School teacher announces that "The Weather Service has issued a Tornado Warning". The National Weather Service was known as the Weather Bureau until late in 1970.

Plot: A black comedy drama centered on Larry Gopnik, a Midwestern professor who watches his life unravel through multiple sudden incidents. Though seeking for meaning and answers he seems to stay stalled. Full summary »  »

Story: Bloomington, Minnesota, 1967: Jewish physics lecturer Larry Gopnik is a serious and a very put-upon man. His daughter is stealing from him to save up for a nose job, his pot-head son, who gets stoned at his own bar-mitzvah, only wants him round to fix the TV aerial and his useless brother Arthur is an unwelcome house guest. But both Arthur and Larry get turfed out into a motel when Larry's wife Judy, who wants a divorce, moves her lover, Sy, into the house and even after Sy's death in a car crash they are still there. With lawyers' bills mounting for his divorce, Arthur's criminal court appearances and a land feud with a neighbour Larry is tempted to take the bribe offered by a student to give him an illegal exam pass mark. And the rabbis he visits for advice only dole out platitudes. Still God moves in mysterious – and not always pleasant – ways, as Larry and his family will find out.Written by don @ minifie-1  



The day of Danny’s bar mitzvah arrives. As he goes to the stand to read from the Torah, his mind freezes and he stands as if in a trance. He looks at his family, and back down at the Torah. All at once he comes into focus and begins reading from the Torah flawlessly. As Larry and Judith watch proudly, they start to hold hands and arms, as if beginning to reconnect. Judith suddenly tells Larry that Sy always admired Larry very much, and secretly wrote letters of recommendation on Larry’s behalf, to the college tenure board.

At the completion of the ceremony, Danny is told about the rights and duties of being a full member of the community and the synagogue. He is given a kiddush cup and told that he has been granted an audience with Rabbi Marshak.

Danny goes into Marshak’s office, and sits in front of him. Marshak speaks slowly, almost haltingly, and in a way that suggests he’s a little addled. He begins to quote lines from Jefferson Airplane’s song ‘Somebody to Love’ (not quite accurately) and recites the names of the group’s members (again, not quite accurately). He then gives Danny back his radio and simply says, "Be a good boy."

The scene begins to switch back and forth at this point between Larry at his office in the college, and Danny at Hebrew school. Arlen visits Larry at his office, congratulating him on Danny’s bar mitzvah and speaking about the need to savor such moments of family blessings, which Larry agrees with and promises to do. Carefully emphasizing that he is speaking off the record and didn’t actually ‘say anything,’ Arlen insinuates that Larry has won tenure at the college. We then see Danny listening to the radio through his earphones, discreetly goofing off during class again. He sees that the $20 he secreted in the radio’s leather belt pouch to pay for the pot given him by Mike Fagle, is still there. He tries to carefully whisper to Fagle, whose seat is in front of him.

Larry opens some of his mail and one of the letters is a legal bill for $3000. Going to his grade book, he stares at the F given to Clive Park and after some thought, changes it to a C minus. Abruptly his phone rings.

Back at Hebrew school, a principal’s aide enters and whispers to the teacher, who announces that a tornado warning has sounded and all students are to be ushered into the basement of the synagogue.

Larry answers his phone and it’s Dr. Shapiro. He congratulates Larry on Danny’s bar mitzvah but then suddenly announces he wants Larry to come into his office to discuss the results of the X-Ray (which Larry was shown getting near the beginning of the movie).

Back at Hebrew school, the kids are all waiting in the parking lot as the teacher fumbles with his keys. Wind is picking up and the teacher can’t seem to pick out the correct key to open the door to the basement.

Back at Larry’s office, Larry asks if he can talk over the phone about the X-Ray results, but Dr. Shapiro feels it would be more comfortable in person. Larry asks when, and Dr. Shapiro says now– he’s set some time aside for Larry to come to his office right away. It’s suggested strongly that Larry is seriously ill; possibly even terminally.

The final scene is back at the Hebrew school. Danny sees Mike Fagle standing in front of him and calls out to him, looking to give him the $20 Danny owes. Suddenly Fagle turns around and stares over his shoulder at Danny, and Danny freezes on seeing what Fagle had been looking at– a major tornado funnel heading straight toward the school… and all the kids, as the teacher is still unable to locate the correct key to the basement.

Fade to black as ‘Somebody to Love’ by Jefferson Airplane begins to play.


FullCast & Crew

Produced By:

  • Tim Bevan known as executive producer
  • Ethan Coen known as producer
  • Joel Coen known as producer
  • Eric Fellner known as executive producer
  • Robert Graf known as executive producer

FullCast & Crew:

  • Michael Stuhlbarg known as Prof. Lawrence 'Larry' Gopnik
  • Richard Kind known as Uncle Arthur
  • Fred Melamed known as Sy Ableman
  • Sari Lennick known as Judith Gopnik
  • Aaron Wolff known as Danny Gopnik
  • Jessica McManus known as Sarah Gopnik
  • Peter Breitmayer known as Mr. Brandt
  • Brent Braunschweig known as Mitch Brandt
  • David Kang known as Clive Park
  • Benjy Portnoe known as Danny's Reefer Buddy
  • Jack Swiler known as Boy on Bus
  • Andrew S. Lentz known as Cursing Boy on Bus
  • Jon Kaminski Jr. known as Mike Fagle
  • Ari Hoptman known as Arlen Finkle
  • Alan Mandell known as Rabbi Marshak
  • Amy Landecker known as Mrs. Samsky
  • George Wyner known as Rabbi Nachtner
  • Michael Tezla known as Dr. Sussman
  • Katherine Borowitz known as Friend at the Picnic
  • Steve Park known as Clive's Father (as Stephen Park)
  • Allen Lewis Rickman known as Velvel – Shtetl Husband
  • Yelena Shmulenson known as Dora – Shtetl Wife
  • Fyvush Finkel known as Treitle Groshkover – Dybbuk
  • Ronald Schultz known as Hebrew School Teacher
  • Raye Birk known as Dr. Shapiro
  • Jane Hammill known as Larry's Secretary
  • Claudia Wilkens known as Marshak's Secretary
  • Simon Helberg known as Rabbi Scott
  • Adam Arkin known as Divorce Lawyer
  • Jim Cada known as Cop #1
  • Michael Lerner known as Solomon Schlutz
  • Charles Brin known as Hebrew School Principal
  • Michael Engel known as Torah Blesser
  • Tyson Bidner known as Magbiah
  • Phyllis Harris known as Hebrew School Tea Lady
  • Piper Sigel-Bruse known as D'vorah Piper (as Sigel Bruse)
  • Hannah Nemer known as Sarah's Friend
  • Rita Vassallo known as Law Firm Secretary
  • Warren Keith known as Dick Dutton (as Warren David Keith)
  • Neil Newman known as Cantor
  • Tim Russell known as Detective #1
  • Jim Lichtscheidl known as Detective #2
  • Wayne A. Evenson known as Russell Krauss (as Wayne Evenson)
  • Scott Thompson Baker known as Sci-Fi Movie Hero (as Scott Baker)
  • Landyn Banx known as Physics Student (uncredited)
  • Alana Bloom known as Physics Student (uncredited)
  • Rita Cannon known as Physics Student (uncredited)
  • Matt Cici known as Physics Student (uncredited)
  • David Cohen known as Bar Mitzvah Guest (uncredited)
  • Amanda Day known as Physics Student (uncredited)
  • Devon A Early known as Physics Student (uncredited)
  • John Edel known as 1960s Beach Party Attendee (uncredited)
  • Jon Foss known as Physics Student (uncredited)
  • Rachel Grubb known as Bar Mitzvah Guest (uncredited)
  • Sherilyn Henderson known as Neighborhood Kid (uncredited)
  • Steven Wothe Jr known as Bar Mitzvah and Funeral Guest (uncredited)
  • Punnavith Koy known as Physics Nerd (uncredited)
  • Nicole Kruex known as Physics Student (uncredited)
  • Tammara Melloy known as Mom on the beach (uncredited)
  • Lauri Mueller known as Bar Mitzvah and Funeral Guest (uncredited)
  • Helen Murray known as Grocery Store Patron (uncredited)
  • Lisa Pechmiller known as Bar Mitzvah Guest (uncredited)
  • Asher Pink known as Bar Mitzvah Guest (uncredited)
  • Lisa-Lou Rosenberg known as Bar Mitzvah and Funeral Guest (uncredited)
  • Benjamin Terry known as College student (uncredited)
  • Joel Thingvall known as Bar Mitzvah Guest (uncredited)



Supporting Department

Makeup Department:
  • Fríða Aradóttir known as hair department head (as Fríða S. Aradóttir)
  • Jean Ann Black known as makeup department head (as Jean A. Black)
  • Jean Ann Black known as makeup designer (as Jean A. Black)
  • Mary Flaa known as co-makeup department head (as Mary K Flaa)
  • Deanna Johnson known as assistant hair stylist (as Deanna L. Johnson)
  • Carrie Messina known as assistant makeup artist
  • Christien Tinsley known as age effects makeup
  • Maureen Landa known as makeup artist (uncredited)
  • Maureen Landa known as makeup continuity (uncredited)
  • Cara Sophia Tollefson known as makeup artist day player (uncredited)
  • Brenda Torre known as makeup artist (uncredited)

Art Department:

  • J. Todd Anderson known as pen grappler
  • Steve Anderson known as construction coordinator
  • Maria L. Baker known as set designer (as Maria Baker)
  • Benjamin Bayne known as scenic gang boss
  • Jill Broadfoot known as art department buyer
  • John C. Cameron known as assistant property master (as John Cameron)
  • John Alan Champion known as prop maker (as John A. Champion)
  • Mark Edmo known as prop maker
  • Matt Erkel known as prop maker
  • Faith Farrell known as scenic artist
  • Windy Fleischaker known as scenic artist
  • David Franicola known as prop maker
  • Garrett Fulton known as prop maker
  • Bradley G. Grasser known as prop maker (as Bradley 'Wiszard' Grasser)
  • Wayne Grimsbud known as scenic
  • Wayne Grimsrud known as scenic artist
  • Andrew Gustafson known as painter
  • Cate Hahneman known as art department production assistant
  • Donavan M. Hake known as construction gang boss
  • Kemper Harris known as on-set greensman
  • David K. Hartman known as prop maker
  • Eric Helmin known as art department intern
  • Kelly Hemenway known as construction gang boss (as Kelly Rae Hemenway)
  • Gregory Hill known as graphic designer
  • Luther Hill known as painter
  • Steven Hintz known as prop maker
  • Anne Hyvarinen known as lead scenic artist
  • Matt Joyer known as swing gang
  • Jim Kindt known as greensman
  • Brian Koehn known as prop maker
  • Sarah Kruchowski known as swing gang
  • Janet Lobberecht known as greens gang boss
  • Quentin Matthys known as swing gang
  • Sam McGlynn known as art department asset production assistant (as Sahm McGlynn)
  • Jarrette Moats known as art department coordinator
  • Scott Nordhausen known as on-set dresser
  • Patrick L. Owen known as construction gang boss (as Pat Owen)
  • Dennis J. Perry known as prop maker
  • Sarah Regan known as stand-by painter
  • Keith Reitmeier known as prop maker
  • Brian Rhea known as prop maker
  • Renee T. Schendel known as scenic artist
  • Jeff Schoen known as assistant art director
  • Hans Schumacher known as scenic artist
  • Shannon M. Schumacher known as scenic artist
  • Bryan Shelley known as props assistant
  • Brian J. Simpson known as swing gang (as Brian Simpson)
  • Gary Surber known as construction gang boss (as Gary C. Surber)
  • Dwight C. Swanson known as construction gang boss
  • Ryan Tallant known as swing gang
  • Chris Thickins known as swing gang
  • Scott Troha known as lead dresser
  • Phil Vandervaart known as signwriter
  • Mike Wallien known as construction foreman
  • Rob Walstead known as swing gang
  • Keith Walters known as property master
  • Pat Wilson known as construction utility
  • Mark Wojahn known as head greensman
  • Stephanie Jean Elmer known as art department coordinator (uncredited)
  • Steven Hintz known as carpenter (uncredited)




Production Companies:

  • Focus Features (presents)
  • Studio Canal (presented in association with)
  • Relativity Media (presented in association with)
  • Mike Zoss Productions (co-production)
  • Working Title Films (co-production)

Other Companies:

  • AON/Albert G. Ruben Insurance Services  insurance broker
  • Behind the Scenes Freight  dailies by
  • Behind the Scenes Freight  shipping by
  • Big Film Design  titles and subtitles
  • Body, The  music score mixing facility
  • C5  foley recording facility
  • Clinton Recording Studios  score recording facility (as Clinton Recording Studio)
  • David Haddad  transportation equipment
  • Diamond Time  music clearances
  • EFilm  digital intermediate
  • Entertainment Clearances  clearance services
  • Filmtools  expendables
  • Haddad's  transportation equipment
  • Intelligent Media  international monitoring agency
  • Karen Fried & Associates  publicity
  • Lakeshore Records  soundtrack
  • Lightnin' Production Rentals  transportation equipment
  • Movie Movers  hair and make-up trailers
  • Movie Movers  transportation
  • Murphy PR  publicity
  • Otto Nemenz International  cameras (as Otto Nemenz)
  • PlethoraFX  opticals
  • Post Factory NY  post-production facilities (as Post Factory)
  • Props On Wheels  picture vehicles & vintage vehicle restoration
  • Rescue Resources  set medics
  • Sony Pictures Studios  sound re-recording facility
  • Technicolor  release printing
  • Tony's Food Service  catering
  • Trevanna Post  post-production accountant


  • Alliance Films (2009) (Canada) (theatrical)
  • Ascot Elite Entertainment Group (2009) (Switzerland) (theatrical)
  • Central Partnership (2009) (Russia) (theatrical)
  • Face to Face (2011) (Japan) (theatrical)
  • Focus Features (2009) (USA) (theatrical)
  • Medusa Distribuzione (2009) (Italy) (theatrical)
  • Serenity Entertainment International (2009) (Taiwan) (theatrical)
  • Shaw Organisation (2010) (Singapore) (theatrical)
  • Studio Canal (2010) (France) (theatrical)
  • Svensk Filmindustri (SF) (2009) (Sweden) (theatrical)
  • Svensk Filmindustri (2009) (Iceland) (theatrical)
  • Svensk Filmindustri (2009) (Norway) (theatrical)
  • TOBIS Film (2009) (Germany) (theatrical)
  • United International Pictures (UIP) (2010) (Argentina) (theatrical)
  • Universal Pictures International (UPI) (2010) (Belgium) (theatrical)
  • Universal Pictures International (UPI) (2009) (UK) (theatrical)
  • Universal Pictures International (UPI) (2010) (Netherlands) (theatrical)
  • Alliance (2009) (Canada) (DVD)
  • Argentina Video Home (2010) (Argentina) (DVD)
  • Best Film (2010) (Poland) (all media)
  • Castello Lopes Multimedia (2010) (Portugal) (all media)
  • De Volkskrant (2011) (Netherlands) (DVD) (Complete Coen Brother Collection)
  • FS Film Oy (2009) (Finland) (all media)
  • Film1 (2011) (Netherlands) (TV) (limited)
  • IPA Asia Pacific (2010) (Thailand) (all media)
  • Odeon (2009) (Greece) (all media)
  • Panorama Distributions (2011) (Hong Kong) (DVD)
  • Panorama Distributions (2011) (Hong Kong) (DVD) (Blu-ray)
  • Universal Home Entertainment (2010) (UK) (DVD)
  • Universal Home Entertainment (2010) (UK) (DVD) (Blu-ray)
  • Universal Home Video (2010) (Brazil) (DVD)
  • Universal Pictures Benelux (2010) (Netherlands) (DVD)
  • Universal Pictures Benelux (2010) (Netherlands) (DVD) (Blu-ray)
  • Universal Studios Home Entertainment (2010) (USA) (DVD)
  • Universal Studios Home Entertainment (2010) (USA) (DVD) (Blu-ray)
  • Universum Film (UFA) (2010) (Germany) (DVD)
  • Universum Film (UFA) (2010) (Germany) (DVD) (Blu-ray)



Other Stuff

Special Effects:

  • Luma Pictures (visual effects)
  • PlethoraFX (opticals)

Visual Effects by:

  • Oliver Arnold known as cg supervisor: Luma Pictures
  • Andy Burmeister known as junior compositor: Luma Pictures
  • Alexandre Cancado known as lead compositor: Luma Pictures
  • John Cassella known as senior visual effects artist: Luma Pictures
  • Vincent Cirelli known as visual effects supervisor: Luma Pictures
  • J. John Corbett known as lead digital artist: Big Film Design
  • Katie Godwin known as visual effects coordinator: Luma Pictures
  • Anthony Grant known as matte painter: Luma Pictures
  • Steve Griffith known as visual effects producer: Luma Pictures
  • Jennifer Gutierrez known as junior compositor: Luma Pictures
  • Jacob Harris known as roto/paint artist: Luma Pictures
  • Brent Hensarling known as senior systems administrator: Luma Pictures
  • Justin Johnson known as digital effects supervisor: Luma Pictures
  • Harimander Singh Khalsa known as compositor: Luma Pictures (as Michael Cashore)
  • Jason Locke known as matchmove technical director: Luma Pictures
  • Jessica Madsen known as roto/paint artist: Luma Pictures (as Jessica Bakke)
  • Artin Matousian known as systems administrator
  • Glenn Morris known as roto/paint supervisor: Lima Pictures
  • Marla Neto known as digital coordinator: Luma Pictures
  • Justin Porter known as technical coordinator: Luma Pictures
  • Payam Shohadai known as executive visual effects supervisor: Luma Pictures
  • Joey Sila known as compositor: Luma Pictures
  • Jared Simeth known as compositor: Luma Pictures
  • Safari Sosebee known as matte painter: Luma Pictures
  • Steven Swanson known as visual effects supervising producer: Luma Pictures
  • James Waterson known as compositor: Luma Pictures
  • Patrick Clancey known as digital opticals (uncredited)
  • John R. Hazzard known as pipeline technical director: Luma Pictures (uncredited)
  • Pavel Pranevsky known as CG supervisor: Luma Pictures (uncredited)
  • Pimentel A. Raphael known as animation supervisor (uncredited)
  • Christopher Sage known as digital environment supervisor: Luma Pictures (uncredited)
  • Maciek Sokalski known as digital compositor (uncredited)
  • Kyle Ware known as visual effects coordinator: Luma Pictures (uncredited)

Release Date:

  • Canada 12 September 2009 (Toronto International Film Festival)
  • USA 26 September 2009 (Friars Club Comedy Film Festival)
  • USA 2 October 2009 (limited)
  • Denmark 9 October 2009
  • Canada 16 October 2009 (limited)
  • Italy 22 October 2009 (Rome Film Festival)
  • Norway 23 October 2009
  • UK 27 October 2009 (London Film Festival)
  • Austria 4 November 2009 (Vienna International Film Festival)
  • Italy 6 November 2009
  • Argentina 7 November 2009 (Mar del Plata Film Festival)
  • UK 8 November 2009 (Leeds International Film Festival)
  • Australia 19 November 2009
  • Sweden 19 November 2009 (Stockholm International Film Festival)
  • Iceland 20 November 2009
  • Ireland 20 November 2009
  • UK 20 November 2009
  • Finland 4 December 2009
  • Israel 10 December 2009
  • Sweden 25 December 2009
  • Greece 7 January 2010
  • Spain 8 January 2010
  • Belgium 20 January 2010
  • France 20 January 2010
  • Switzerland 20 January 2010 (French speaking region)
  • Germany 21 January 2010
  • Netherlands 21 January 2010
  • Switzerland 21 January 2010 (German speaking region)
  • Austria 22 January 2010
  • Mexico 29 January 2010
  • Portugal 18 February 2010
  • Singapore 18 February 2010
  • Brazil 19 February 2010
  • Argentina 25 February 2010
  • Uruguay 26 February 2010
  • Colombia 19 March 2010
  • South Korea 25 March 2010
  • Hong Kong 2 April 2010 (Hong Kong International Film Festival)
  • Romania 25 April 2010 (B-Est International Film Festival)
  • Estonia 30 April 2010
  • Poland 11 June 2010
  • Czech Republic 4 July 2010 (Karlovy Vary Film Festival)
  • Turkey 6 August 2010
  • Hungary 4 November 2010
  • Japan 26 February 2011

MPAA: Rated R for language, some sexuality/nudity and brief violence



Filmography links and data courtesy of The Internet Movie Database

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Posted on March 30, 2012 by Harry in Movies | Tags: , .


  1. Stephen R. Cann, M.D. (srcann@ameritech.net) from Winnetka, IL
    30 Mar 2012, 4:46 am

    ****SPOILER ALERT******

    Several reviewers have commented on physics representing logicalcertainty. In this movie, the opposite is true, and I believe that isthe fulcrum upon which this modern story of Job rests. Modern physicsstrikes at the very heart of faith, mystery and law

    The dybbuk! The husband is caught in the world of the material andcannot believe that the rabbi before him is a spirit, but hiswife…she is not fooled! She believes that the world is filled withmysteries, and her faith in this leads to decisive action–savingthem??

    "Schroedinger's Cat" is a modern mystery, and it is the single subjectthat Larry is teaching in his physics class. "Bracket k bracket and itis equal," he says with finality, thinking that he has demonstrated theorder of the world neatly. But "Schroedinger's Cat" is the ultimateexpression of the rules of order, or G-d's work, leading off the cliffinto the abyss of mystery.

    In the example Schroedinger published in 1935, a cat is in a box with a"diabolical apparatus" which kills the cat if a random subatomicparticle decays. Modern physics, being invented at the time, made theabsurd prediction that until you opened the lid to check, the cat wasin some sort of blurred probability space of being alive/dead, and itonly became actually dead (or alive) when you opened the lid to check.Observation changed reality. The cat is in a mysterious state, beyondour comprehension or belief until we look. Do we have faith? Einsteindidn't. He countered stating that "G-d doesn't play dice with theuniverse!" Schroedinger was doubtful, but insisted that the mystery wassimply inescapable. This is the foundation for a rich allegory, indeed.

    "I don't understand the mathematics, but I understand the stories,"Larry's Korean student insists. "No, if you don't understand the math,you don't understand the physics. Even I sometimes don't understand thestories," Larry shoots back.

    And in this lies the nub of the tale. Larry understands the rules–andfollows them. His life is dreary and takes a seeming nose dive. Plagueafter plague arise and he is perplexed. One rabbi says "We all questionthe existence of hashem ("his name" = G-d) and then we see the wonderin…the parking lot." HE GETS IT!! For him it is faith. Even thefriggin' parking lot is a divine miracle! The next rabbi weaves adeeply mystical tale with a banal ending. Larry is outraged. "What doesit mean?" "How do I know. G-d does't owe us an explanation. Theresponsibility is the other way around," the rabbi responds. They eachhave their own understanding and advise. The young rabbi is not yetwise and advises faith. The next rabbi acknowledges mystery, but saysit is beyond us to understand, so be a good person, "or a betterperson." "God doesn't owe us an explanation. The responsibility runsthe other way."

    It soon becomes clear that the Korean student and his father have arazor-sharp understanding of the "Schroedinger's Cat" story and thrustthe paradox into Larry's life with a vengeance. If only Larryunderstood the paradox.

    But he understands logic and rules. His faith is shaky, but he followsthe rules. Sy doesn't believe a G-d is watching him, steals his friendswife, and G-d strikes him down in his path.

    Even Larry's brother, believes in a crazy half-physics, half-Kaballahmystery and he actually wins card games with it, but he breaks therules and is a pariah.

    The last rabbi will not even talk to him. The most direct response ofG- d being questioned by a doubting subject.

    At the end, Larry feels he is through his trial and "opens the box" tocheck to see if there is a G-d there. Surprise! There is! He opened thebox by breaking the rules. The cat is dead. All his plagues had onlybeen in some sort of blurred probability space of having happened/nothappened; his marriage, his tenure the whole chain of events. It wasnot until he tested G-d by breaking a rule that the very real G-d ofthe bible smote him and his eldest son down.

    The original Job had actual punishments and kept his faith. Our modernJob has existential punishments and ends with a lack of faith. We musthave faith, recognize the mysteries or obey the law according to ourcapacity, but to do none of these is an abomination.

  2. Greg Peters from United States
    30 Mar 2012, 4:46 am

    My wife and I saw the film last Friday. We talked about it for an hourover dinner and again in the evening. The more we discussed it thebetter we liked it.

    It helps to be familiar with the paradox of Schrodinger's cat, a stapleof quantum physics, which can be found on Wikipedia, before you go seethis film. You might also want to understand the quantum concept ofduality.

    The entire movie examines Gopnick and his world==and to a lesser extentthat of his teenage son–in light of these aspects of quantummechanics. I could not find a single scene that did not addressuncertainty and/or duality. The attempt to discern traditionalreligious meaning in this world is humorous in itself. The openingpresents the paradox and is crucial to the rest of the film.

    Unlike the local review for the film which described this as a "typicalCoen Brothers film" and "weird" and "no closure at the end", I foundthis film to be quite literal and true to the principles of uncertaintyand duality. The two major characters both find closure, and inretrospect, there is clearly a beginning, middle and end to the storythe brothers wanted to tell.

    But the movie continues after the closure, just as life continues on adaily basis, setting up another expectation of continual uncertainty.

    Not being Jewish, I no doubt missed some of the double entendre andhumor in the tradition. I would have liked to understand the Hebrewpassage of the bar mitzvah ceremony, for example, and how it relates tothe core theme of the film. But the movie is universal in its appeal,if you understand the basic concept of quantum mechanics upon which thefilm is based.

    I rate this as one of their best films due to its intellectualfoundation. Much more important to me than No Country.

  3. jafdc from United States
    30 Mar 2012, 4:46 am

    You may have to be a believer (Jewish or Christian) to like this film,although some secular (at least middle-aged midwestern) Jews and othersmay find it worthwhile for the period details. It is a modern versionof the book of Job, which–of course you remember–contains a prologuein which God and Satan bet on whether Job will remain faithful andSatan then strikes down Job's flocks, children, and health; a series ofspeeches by three comforters with Job's responses; a speech by Elihuwho is unhappy with the advice of the three comforters; the Lordhimself answering Job directly out of the whirlwind ('who is this whodarkens counsel by words without knowledge?'); a final submissivespeech by Job ('I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but nowmine eye see thee, wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust andashes'); and an epilogue in which Job receives more flocks and children(…) than he had before.

    The book and the film address what (Christian, at least) theologianscall theodicy, or how bad things can happen in the world when God, whosupposedly controls everything, is supposedly good. For nonbelievers(if you have any interest in the subject), the best way to think ofthis is perhaps to ask yourself whether the universe (the Creation) ison balance a good thing ('and God saw that it was good'). If so, thenperhaps we somehow have an obligation to live moral lives and (as Jewsand Christians think of it) to follow God's law. If not, then perhapsit's every man for himself and the Devil take the hindmost.

    The Coens' answer, if I understand it correctly, comes out of thewhirlwind at the end in the voice of Grace Slick. I personally preferGod's original response with its paean to astrophysics and evolutionarybiology–'Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? …When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shoutedfor joy? … Gave you wings and feathers unto the ostrich? Who leavesher eggs in the earth, and warms them in the dust, and forgets that thefoot may crust them or that the wild best may break them…; becauseGod has deprived her of wisdom, neither has he imparted to herunderstanding'–which essentially asserts that Creation is wonderfuland a package deal. But the Coens' very different answer, while oddlyChristian in emphasis, is fully consistent with both the 1960szeitgeist and with the midwestern Jewish community that they have someticulously recreated.

    If you like this film, you really need to see it twice. But withoutgiving anything away, if you see it once, be careful to pay attentionto (i) the bribe that, like Schroedinger's cat, is alive and dead atthe same time and (ii) the whirlwind at the end. This is a great film.

  4. Robert Broerse from Canada
    30 Mar 2012, 4:46 am

    The only thing fairly remarkable or remotely intriguing about this filmis the opening wherein a Yiddish-speaking Jew of the 19th centuryinvites (accidentally) a dybbuk (evil spirit in the shape of a man)into his family home. The ominous turn of events and the wife'ssensible solution to the situation is comical and you would think thefilm would build on such an interesting prologue.

    Alas, like reading the Book of Job without the good parts (namely thephilosophical arguments and the poetry, let alone a resolution), ASerious Man feels like an exercise in viewing torture. (What is itabout 2009? The Road and A Serious Man both belong in the category of'agonizing to watch…).

    Maybe the brilliance of this film lies in that you think at any minutethis honest, good, hard-working Jewish man will crack and finally takeon the world that is besetting him as opposed to questioning G-d. Butfor much of the film, our lead character, Larry Gopnik, a professor,husband, father of two, brother of socially-inept Adam, there is littlehere that happens, let alone satisfies a viewing audience.

    It has been awhile before I watched a film wherein I continuallybattled with myself over whether I should continue or simply walk away.I wanted to walk away…

    What made this film the most unbearable is how each periphery characterrarely ever showed their humanity – Larry's Son and Daughter are simplycretins, the former a typical high school student with bully problemsand marijuana indulgence (also he orders records of the month andleaves the bill for his father) while his daughter's only needs in lifeseem to be her hair and going out. There is no dimension to either ofthem while their mother, Larry's wife is a loveless shrew thatremarkably makes Larry pay for his rival's funeral, an arrogant friendof the family named Sy. Throughout the first half of the film, Sy andLarry's wife are in love, working on Larry to get a kosher divorce.

    After awhile, I lost sympathy for the lead, not because of his wife andfamily, but because he had wandered into a cinematic world lackinghumanity, let alone real people. The Coens have not crafted a movie,let alone a film but an alternate universe, a torture chamber of blanddirection and characterization. It has been awhile since I watched afilm where I felt I despised so many characters. Ideally, supportingcharacters are there to create relationships, to reveal the complexityof human life. It seems everyone here is just another means to stab thelead and bludgeon him with their inane presence. Even the rabbi whorefuses to talk to him feels less like a person as opposed to a forcedstory development.

    If you were the kid in school who didn't torture earth worms or pullbutterfly wings off Monarchs, then you might not like this debacle,another pseudo-film from the Coen Brothers.

  5. freelancethinkers from Brighton, England
    30 Mar 2012, 4:46 am

    I suppose the first thing that needs to be said is that I'm not Jewishand, as such, a lot of what was obviously a deeply personal movie wentover my head, and I was left feeling like an outsider, almost a voyeur.

    However, perhaps as a result of this I'm able to view the film moreobjectively. Visually, it is beautiful. There are so many perfectlyframed scenes that even when the story seems to drag it keeps youcaptivated.

    Having said that, for me, it did drag. The central figure was aneurotic, cerebral, awkward, middle aged Jewish man. Not entirely acinematic first. Add to this the fact that he was possibly the mostpassive character in cinematic history – he literally made no decisionsin the entire movie until the final scene. Instead he was drawn fromone catastrophe to another, on the basis that he was a good, upstandingman surrounded by stronger people.

    Normally in this situation we would see the character challenged andgrow, but this is the Coen brothers, so it's not going to be thatsimple. Instead,,we are left to squirm at the relentless nature of theman's incessant failings – a frustrating experience, particularly ifyou're not privy to the Jewish humour that pervades this intimate film.

    It seemed to me almost as if the Coen Brothers were seeing how far theycan stretch their high profile. With No Country For Old Men they robbedus of the pivotal, climactic scene and I for one left feeling cheated.Here they simply don't introduce it at all. They break every storyparadigm there is, as if to suggest that they are now so great they canpresent a piece that has no development, no conclusion, a prologue thatseems to have no relevance to the main body of the work, and noredemptive quality to extract from any of the characters. A bit likereal life I suppose. But who wants to see that on a forty foot screen?

    I need to lay down.

  6. Movie_Muse_Reviews from IL, USA
    30 Mar 2012, 4:46 am

    The Coen brothers have developed critical acclaim for making blackcomedies/awkward tragedies that depict small-time people getting in wayover their heads, who for one reason or another are motivated to dothings out of the ordinary because the natural order of the world andsociety has wronged them in some way.

    "A Serious Man," however, is about a man who doesn't do anything, towhom bad/annoying things happen. This story of a confused suburbanJewish man in the '60s wrestling with life's meaning is therefore animportant step in the evolution of the Coens' theme-driven film-making.Borrowing on an autobiographical context (Minnesota, Judaism, etc.) forthe brothers, it moves on to greater cosmic questions but with the samequirky and ironic spirit that have garnered the Coens all theirdeserved attention over the last 20 years.

    Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) is that one Coen brothers character inevery movie — you know, the innocent one who manages to suffer aseemingly unfair fate (think Steve Buscemi in "The Big Lebowski" ormost recently Richard Jenkins' character in "Burn After Reading") –only he gets to pilot this film. In that spirit, an unknown Stuhlbargis cast in the lead (although he was clearly up for the challenge).Larry is a mild-mannered math professor with a family in an idealsuburban home only his wife wants a divorce and his kids arenightmarish. Little by little the annoyances of his life pile up fromthe foreign student trying to bribe him for a passing grade whilesimultaneously suing him for defamation to his socially immaturebrother (Richard Kind) who won't leave his house.

    Larry seeks answers from the rabbis in his community to understand themess his life has suddenly become. One rabbi tells him he needs achange of perspective, another tells him the story of "The Goy'sTeeth," a hilarious bit about a dentist who tries desperately to makemeaning of a Hebrew message engraved in a patient's teeth only to findhe was better off not worrying about it. None of their advice seems tohelp at the time — but it's dead on. The Goy's Teeth scene inparticular is one of the brilliant moments where the Coen brothers letyou know pretty clearly what their intentions are with the film whilegiving you something to laugh about. That's their strength and it's allover "Serious Man."

    Much like "Burn After Reading," this film is one that makes a thematicpoint out of the audience's attempt to squeeze meaning out ofeverything. By turning Larry into a Job-like figure to whominexplicable misfortune happens, we're forced to put everything intoperspective. When Kind's character, Arthur, has a tantrum in the middleof the night wondering why God has given him nothing and he points outthat Larry has kids and a job, suddenly our perspective changes.Suddenly everything we thought mattered in this film and was ofcritical importance is really not such a big deal. Our desperate searchfor answers in both our lives and in this film, our tendency toover-analyze and derive reason from everything comes to a halt; theCoen bros. have worked their magic again.

    "Serious Man" is one of their best in recent memory because it not onlyfeels rooted and personal for them, but it moves toward a greaterdiscussion of previously treaded upon themes and plots from theirprevious work. It is a challenging film and those who have struggledwith the Coen brothers before will struggle again, but for the cerebraland intellectual moviegoer it's outstanding.

    The truth is, we don't have all the answers to make sense of life'sevents (or a story's plot points) and neither do the Coen brothers. Oneinsignificant character in the film who appears to have an answer tojust one of Larry's myriad of minor problems dies instantly withhysterical irony. Don't go into "A Serious Man" looking for answers, gointo it looking for a change of perspective. ~Steven C Visit my site athttp://moviemusereviews.blogspot.com

  7. (hcfnotlcd)
    30 Mar 2012, 4:46 am

    I saw this movie at TIFF on Saturday. The Coens quietly (and I meanquietly – no-one could hear even their amplified voices) introduced themovie with reference to the actors present but not the movie, lettingit speak for itself. And it did. In its own way. It is an off-beat(what else?) and serious work that radiates bleak despair whilesearching for a funny bone. In the process, the movie makes other blackcomedies look positively light and airy. The movie evokes laughs from adifferent place than most – from a profound discomfort watching peopletwist themselves this way and that to fit in and be regarded seriously,whether situationally, socially or religiously. A great piece of workthat will have you thinking long afterwards, especially considering theodd and difficult-to-contextualize prologue and, um different, endingwhich bookend a remarkable work.

  8. hugoazevedo9 from Portugal
    30 Mar 2012, 4:46 am

    This movie has only two things good: image quality and culturalaccuracy. I am a high def constant viewer and i have to say the 1080pof this movie is one of the best i ever seen. Apart from this twohighlights the "A Serious Man" has nothing to offer unless a big wastof time. I waited until the end to see a revelation or a critical turnover of the events because without that the movie is about nothing. Theend is abrupt and it surprises you but that doesn't give it quality andit's cheap and easy. The movie is about the disgrace of a pathetic andstupid man that does nothing to change his sad life. That's it, nothingmore nothing less. The good reviews you see out there are meant toclaim an alternative movie and scream out loud: "I like this moviebecause i see beyond the banal viewer and only i can understand itsdepth." A good movie, or at least a watchable movie, needs to havepersonality, purpose and a message. This movie fails in all three andonly successes on being annoying as hell.

  9. MisterWhiplash from United States
    30 Mar 2012, 4:46 am

    The Coen Brothers give to its frazzled protagonist Larry Gopnick a linea few times during the course of A Serious Man, "I didn't do anything!"that is more than just an homage to Franz Kafka – it's ripping him offbasically. This is not to say Larry is quite in the same predicament ofJoseph K. Then again, I wonder if Larry would prefer no explanation tothe if-it-wasn't-for-bad-luck-I-would-have-no-luck status over thekinds he gets to his troubles. He has a divorce pending and his wifeleaving with Sy Ableman (seriously, Sy Ableman!), he has a South Koreanstudent who may be simultaneously bribing him and suing him fordefamation, he has a brother who has a cyst/no job/gambling troubles,two kids who more or less are just typically dysfunctional teens (theboy on his way to be Bar Mitzvah and smoking enough dope to acknowledgemore than once that it's 1967), and his sexual repression ispractically taunted by the foxy Jewish woman next door who sunbathesnude. And what does God have to say about this? Oh, don't get himstarted on trips to the Rabbi – frankly, he'd have better luck withAnton Chigurh.

    A Serious Man is a movie to take seriously as art, but at the same timethe Coens aren't above pulling out their usual all-stops to make this ahilariously weird and awkward movie. Perhaps a better way to compare isthat it's like if Curb Your Enthusiasm starred an average shmo whodoesn't have quite the sense of humor of Larry David (and, perhaps, iseven cursed by his bloodline via the opening scene in the movie… ormaybe not, I'll get to that in a moment), and who keeps getting s*** onfrom all directions (not coincidentally perhaps Richard Kind appears inboth show and movie). It's such a funny movie that I have to think backto Big Lebowski and O'Brother Where Art Thou to remember when I laughedso hard. Maybe its the predilection for Jewish jokes that sting so, ormaybe its the originality with the storytelling. As far as ablack-as-Jewish-death comedy, it works completely.

    As for being a masterpiece of a film… I'm still not completely sure.Sometimes the Coens' movies are instant classics (No Country for OldMen, Blood Simple), and others take a little while to grow on a viewer(i.e. Miller's Crossing, even Big Lebowski was a grower and not ashower for me). A Serious Man may fall in the latter category; it'ssuch a personal film, maybe more than anyone done before if only forthe time and place and particulars of the characters in a Jewish-suburbof Minnesota, and its such an oddity in their catalog of work. WatchingLarry on this existential odyssey of "WTF" nears Bergman proportions -there's even a scene where a character's death affects a woman in muchthe same way as the father Ekdahl's death in Fanny & Alexander – wherereligion is tested to the fullest and most harrowing of emotionalschemes. Where is God when Larry needs him? Everywhere? Nowhere? ScrewLarry, he didn't pay his (son's) Columbia Records account!

    But for all that succeeds in A Serious Man, such as a completelymasterful sequence (a contender for my single favorite sequence of anymovie this year) where a Rabbi describes a harrowing and pointless anduproarious story of a dentist and a Goy's teeth, or when Larry's son isstoned out of his mind when reading the Torah at his Bar Mitzvah (afirst in cinema history, combining marijuana, Roger Deakins' use of alens-baby, and Hebrew), and its creative characterizations and shockingnightmare scenes, it's an unsettling film, and not always in the bestways. It's a film that, as one could argue in their past films, is atwar with if not the audience directly then with audience expectations.We might expect A Serious Man to just be about this man's downwardspiral in his life, but what then to make of that (cool) opening sceneall in Yiddish and (admitted by Joel Coen) to not really have a wholelot to do directly with the rest of the movie, or, for that matter, theend of the movie which just… ends.

    As far as 'f***-you's' to audiences go, it certainly is funny andstartling in comparison with No Country for Old Men (almost like theCoens are saying 'yeah, knock this one this time, we *dare* you!), andif I get an f-you from filmmakers I'm glad it comes from them. But…you will either need more than a viewing for it to sink in, or you'llcurse the day you decided to walk in the theater or rent it. Not muchof a middle ground. Then again, I wouldn't want it any other way inthis case. And hey, it's got Jefferson Airplane quoted by a Yoda-Rabbi,that scores points right there! 9.5/10

  10. aschein81 from United States
    30 Mar 2012, 4:46 am

    I just saw this film earlier today and I have to say that it was simplythrilling. Now how can I possible say that it was thrilling when therewere zero action scenes, zero suspense, and zero plot? To me, it'sexactly because it lacks those things that makes this film thrilling!If you are reading through these IMDb reviews, you already know thegeneral premise of the movie and have likely seen the preview, and soknowing that it is a Coen brothers movie you probably know what kind offilm to expect.

    One of the things I really love about this film (which others may hate)is because it basically has no plot, and is simply 90 minutes of onemiddle-aged man's struggles in life, with no type of resolutionwhatsoever. The tone and slow pacing of the film reminded me a greatdeal of the film "Sideways(2004)" in that we just see an average guy'sstruggles with the people in his life, with some comedic moments thrownin occasionally to break the overall depressing mood of the film. Likethat film, you are so able to relate to the main character and hisproblems because his issues and the people he has issues with are sogenuine.

    And that's exactly why I call this review "a serious look at humannature." All of the great satire is in fact based closely on reality,or realistic events that we can relate to. In this film, the maincharacter's issues are so average and normal (divorce, teenage sonexperimenting with pot, possible job advancement/work stability, etc.)that they are parts of almost everyone's everyday life. Even theinteractions and subplots with the Asian student and the huntingneighbors are so very realistic, which aids in making them hilarious.Even if you are not Jewish, you will still be able to relate to andunderstand the satire in this film. Some moviegoers with shortattention spans will probably hate this film and wonder when the big,explosive fight scene will be or when the Adam Sandler/Will Ferrellstupid fart/gay jokes will start appearing…but of course this film isthe exact opposite of typical Hollywood.

    Another reason why I am giving this film such a high score is becausewhile watching this film it is clear just how much the Coen brotherssimply LOVE making films, and they are only concerned with making thefilm their way. They don't care about box office profits or a targetdemographic…they just make films that are personal to them. It's justso refreshing to see. Just look at the attention to detail they willput into one scene of dialogue between characters. Look at the way theglasses' on someone's face are angled, the way the characters' hair isjust a tiny bit messy, the way a character holds his yamaka in placewhile running, the way the lines are set-up and timed perfectly to havethe perfect effect on the audience. When you watch this you can justsee how dedicated they are to their craft. These guys care so muchabout creating little details and endearing characters and so littleabout any kind of recycled plot. Hats off to the Coen boys once again!Shalom!

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