“A Serious Man”
a review by Darby O’Gill

Have you ever had a bad day? How about a bad week? Larry Gopnik is about to find out the answer to those questions and more, in the new Coen brothers movie A Serious ManJoel and Ethan Coen are at it again, and this time they’re taking us to a small Midwestern Jewish community in 1967. Okay, right out of the gate I have to say that this is one of those subjective Coen brother movies. And with that said I’m trying to figure out the best way to review this film, without putting my take of the movie on you. So, here we go.

Larry Gopnik, played by Michael Stuhlbarg, is a physics professor that is trying to find clarity in his life as it slowly slips into chaos. He wants desperately to be a mensch, a person with a good strength of character, or a serious man if you will; but life seems to have other plans for poor Larry. What do physics, blackmail, a portable radio, twenty bucks, divorce, defamation of character, F-Troop, a nose job, anonymous letters, a bar mitzvah, Jefferson Airplane, the wisdom of three rabbis, tenure, Columbia House Record Club, dental phenomena, gambling, Sy Ableman, weed, antenna reception, bribes, a sebaceous cyst, nude sunbathing, and a simultaneous car crash all have in common? Well, Larry of course. Now, I can’t tell you what it all means, mostly because the answer is going to be different for everyone that sees it, but what I can tell you is that this is one of those movies that you like the more you think about it. Like a fine wine, it just takes a little time. I’m a big fan of the Coen brothers, and even I had to take a few days to totally let this whole movie sink in. At first the movie might seem to be about nothing, but I think it’s more about what the movie means to you in the end. I don’t want to get too philosophical here, but it’s true! The movie doesn’t make you think while you’re watching it, you just find yourself following the unfortunate turns of Larry Gopnik’s life. But, when the movie does end, and you find yourself saying, “What?!” And you will. Just try and not rush to judgment right away on your feelings of the movie on a whole. Let the message and the meaning set in on its own terms. I’m afraid this is going to be one of those Coen brothers movies that isn’t truly appreciated until a few years down the road, which is sad, because it really is a nice little movie.

Be sure to check back here in two weeks for my interview with the serious man himself, Michael Stuhlbarg.


3.5 Little People