Serious Man

Serious Man

3.4 11
Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

Cast: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Kind


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Filmmaking duo Joel and Ethan Coen write, produce, and direct this period black comedy set in 1967 concerning a Midwestern physics professor whose staid and stable life slowly begins to unravel after his wife announces that she's leaving him. As if the failure of his longtime marriage wasn't enough for Larry GopnikSee more details below


Filmmaking duo Joel and Ethan Coen write, produce, and direct this period black comedy set in 1967 concerning a Midwestern physics professor whose staid and stable life slowly begins to unravel after his wife announces that she's leaving him. As if the failure of his longtime marriage wasn't enough for Larry Gopnik (Tony-nominated Michael Stuhlbarg) to contend with, now his socially inept brother refuses to move out of the house as well. Larry is a modest man of science. Up to this point, his life has been uneventful at best, but things are about to get interesting. When his wife, Judith, announces that she is leaving him to move in with his smug colleague Sy Ableman, Larry does his best to contend with his failed marriage while barely tolerating his unemployable brother, Arthur, who appears to have grown roots on Larry's couch. Meanwhile, Larry's son, Danny, is getting into trouble at Hebrew school, and his daughter, Sarah, is stealthily snatching money from his wallet so she can afford a nose job. As Judith and Sy merrily begin making plans for their new life of domestic bliss together, Larry begins receiving a series of anonymous letters from someone who seems intent on sabotaging his chance for tenure at the university. To further complicate matters, a graduate student with failing grades is attempting to bribe the professor while simultaneously threatening him with a defamation lawsuit. Larry is in some serious need of equilibrium, though it's hard to focus on getting your life in order when your beautiful neighbor insists on sunbathing in the nude just outside your window. Perhaps by seeking the advice of three trusted rabbis, Larry can finally learn to cope with his afflictions and become a genuine mensch. A Serious Man is the second in a two-picture deal that the siblings made with Focus Features and Working Title. The first film in the deal, entitled Burn After Reading and starring Brad Pitt, George Clooney, and Frances McDormand, was released nationwide in September 2008.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Perry Seibert
With A Serious Man, Joel and Ethan Coen create a jet-black comedy about anxiety and dread so funny -- and so disturbing -- that snack counters should sell Klonopin along with the popcorn. After being informed by his doctor that he's in perfect health, math professor Larry Gopnik's (Michael Stuhlbarg) world quickly unravels. In quick succession, his mentally unstable brother (Richard Kind) moves in, a student offers Larry a bribe for a passing grade, his wife (Sari Lennick) informs him their marriage is over, he receives unexpected angry calls from a Columbia Record Club debt collector, and his teenage kids continue to ignore him, apart from his ability to fix their TV's reception problems. As Larry slowly loses control over his surroundings, he seeks counsel from various rabbis, whose parables offer little help to alleviate his anxiety and fear. Giving away too much more of the plot would be unkind, because experiencing the totality and swiftness with which Larry's life crashes down around him is half the fun of the movie. The Coens fashion a slow-motion existential train wreck where a good and honest man drowns in events that relentlessly grow more outlandish and tragic. And understand that for all the unending pain, there are big laughs throughout -- particularly from Fred Melamed as Larry's wife's new love, Sy Ableman. Whenever Sy speaks to Larry, he offers the most caring and supportive sentiments imaginable, but he delivers them in a voice so lulling and smooth that it hilariously amplifies their insincerity. Yet, for all the belly laughs (including a brilliant joke that gets set up in the first ten minutes but doesn't pay off until nearly the end of the movie), this is at heart a Kafka-esque nightmare. A Serious Man underscores the fact that the Coens are remarkably talented filmmakers -- very few directors could make audiences feel dread and panic this acutely while simultaneously doubling them up with laughter. But it's the unease and not the laughter that the Coens end with, and it's hard to ignore that this is their third film in a row to wrap up with a profound spiritual bummer. The Coen brothers used to temper their skeptical view of people and life with occasional glimpses of positivity -- it's hard to find a more likeable and good-hearted hero than Fargo's Marge Gunderson, unless it's "The Dude." But, A Serious Man finds Joel and Ethan entrenched in pessimism, and that might be the most disquieting aspect of the whole movie.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Focus Features
[Wide Screen]
[DTS 5.1-Channel Surround Sound, Dolby AC-3 Surround Sound]
Sales rank:

Special Features

Becoming Serious - Explore the Creative Vision Behind A Serious Man and See Why it's the Coen Brothers' Most Personal Film; ; Creating 1967 - Take a Tour of the Minneapolis Neighborhoods and Set Pieces used in the film; ; Hebrew and Yiddish For Goys - Unravel the Mysteries of the Hebrew and Yiddish Languages

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Michael Stuhlbarg Larry Gopnik
Richard Kind Uncle Arthur
Fred Melamed Sy Ableman
Sari Lennick Judith Gopnik
Adam Arkin Divorce Lawyer
Amy Landecker Mrs. Samsky
Alan Mandell Rabbi Marshak
Fyvush Finkel Dybbuk,Dybbuk?
Allen Lewis Rickman Shtetl Husband
Yelena Shmulenson Shtetl Wife
Peter Breitmayer Mr. Brandt
Brent Braunschweig Mitch Brandt
Simon Helberg Rabbi Scott
David Kang Clive Park
Aaron Wolff Danny Gopnik
Jessica McManus Sarah Gopnik
Ari Hoptman Arlen Finkle
Michael Tezla Dr. Sussman
George Wyner Rabbi Nachtner
Michael Lerner Solomon Schlutz
Benjamin Portnoe Danny's Reefer Buddy
Jon Kaminski Mike Fagle
Ronald Schultz Hebrew School Teacher
Raye Birk Dr. Shapiro
Charles Brin Hebrew School Teacher
Stephen Park Clive's Father
James Cada Cop #1
Jane Hammill Larry's Secretary
Carter Burwell Conductor

Technical Credits
Ethan Coen Director,Producer,Screenwriter
Joel Coen Director,Producer,Screenwriter
Maria Baker Set Decoration/Design
Craig Berkey Sound/Sound Designer
Tim Bevan Executive Producer
Carter Burwell Score Composer,Musical Direction/Supervision
Ellen Chenoweth Casting
Roger Deakins Camera Operator,Cinematographer
Eric Fellner Executive Producer
Jess Gonchor Production Designer
Robert Graf Executive Producer
Roderick Jaynes Editor
Deborah Jensen Art Director
Betsy Magruder Asst. Director
Rachel Tenner Casting
Mary Zophres Costumes/Costume Designer

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