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A Serious Man (2009)

tomatometer

89

Average Rating: 7.9/10
Reviews Counted: 208
Fresh: 186 | Rotten: 22

Blending dark humor with profoundly personal themes, the Coen brothers deliver what might be their most mature -- if not their best -- film to date.

89

Average Rating: 8.1/10
Critic Reviews: 47
Fresh: 42 | Rotten: 5

Blending dark humor with profoundly personal themes, the Coen brothers deliver what might be their most mature -- if not their best -- film to date.

audience

67

liked it
Average Rating: 3.5/5
User Ratings: 60,864

My Rating

Movie Info

"A Serious Man" is the story of an ordinary man's search for clarity in a universe where Jefferson Airplane is on the radio and "F-Troop" is on TV. It is 1967, and Larry Gopnik, a physics professor at a quiet Midwestern university, has just been informed by his wife Judith that she is leaving him. She has fallen in love with one of his more pompous colleagues, Sy Ableman, who seems to her a more substantial person than the feckless Larry. Larry's unemployable brother Arthur is sleeping on the

R,

Drama, Comedy

,

Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Feb 9, 2010

$9.2M

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All Critics (209) | Top Critics (47) | Fresh (186) | Rotten (22) | DVD (9)

The Coens may play around with that tradition, they may disparage it or mock it. But they are irrevocably a part of it, and that's all to the good.

July 6, 2010 Full Review Source: Christian Science Monitor
Christian Science Monitor
Top Critic IconTop Critic

If you're puzzled by the Coen Brothers' horrific comedies, this is the closest thing you'll get to an explanation.

July 6, 2010 Full Review Source: Newsday
Newsday
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The film's potency is rooted in quiet precision and detailed realisation. Roger Deakins's typically polished photography gives an oppressively hard edge to Midwestern suburbia.

November 20, 2009 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Their most inside joke ever, it leaves you with a lot to chew on, if not a lot to enjoy.

October 21, 2009 Full Review Source: Orlando Sentinel
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Mostly, A Serious Man succeeds because it engages questions worth asking. What is integrity? Does our atavistic need for stories illuminate the meaning of life or further obfuscate it? What does it mean to be good and how are we to achieve it?

October 16, 2009 Full Review Source: Washington Post
Washington Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Life is pain. Life is funny. Things happen randomly, with no purpose or reason that can be discerned. Searching for answers is futile. Enjoy what you can.

October 16, 2009 Full Review Source: Detroit News
Detroit News
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This might be the Coen Brothers' best film. I suspect they think so too. Even if you sense they can't quite grasp what they've stumbled across here, and surely don't want to.

June 22, 2013 Full Review Source: Deadspin
Deadspin

For all the droll wit on display, it's hard to warm to the Coens' chilly parable. Is Larry's suffering the work of God or the Devil, or just the random chaos of an indifferent universe? Arch-ironists to their fingertips, the Coens aren't telling.

August 2, 2012 Full Review Source: Movie Talk
Movie Talk

I guess gleeful misanthropy wasn't enough for the Coen Brothers. Now they want to make it clear that God ... excuse me, Hashem ... is an unforgiving bastard.

April 20, 2011 Full Review Source: Metro Times (Detroit, MI)
Metro Times (Detroit, MI)

Brilliant but bleak comedy for mature Coen brothers fans.

December 18, 2010 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

Joel and Ethan Coen love to play God; they put their characters through hell, torturing them endlessly and treating them with disdain before finally giving them peace (usually through death, madness or some form of imprisonment).

October 27, 2010 Full Review Source: Quickflix
Quickflix

[A] film to be intuitively understood on an almost gut level and discussing it at length later to unravel its nuances is part of the pleasure of seeing such a film.

July 6, 2010 Full Review Source: Cinema Autopsy
Cinema Autopsy

A sincerely sympathetic portrait of an American family man in crisis -- even as it insults its characters and derides their culture.

July 6, 2010 Full Review Source: Sight and Sound
Sight and Sound

It's serious about the craft of storytelling, both in form and function, with a dedication to characterization, pitch-perfect performances, and a cinematic backdrop that is both severely nostalgic and completely immersive.

July 6, 2010 Full Review Source: Cinematical
Cinematical

It's definitely a film worth seeing.

July 6, 2010 Full Review Source: JoBlo's Movie Emporium
JoBlo's Movie Emporium

In terms of putting a protagonist through the wringer, the directors haven't been quite this cruel since Barton Fink, a film which shares A Serious Man's penchant for extremely black - actually, make that bleak - humor.

July 4, 2010 Full Review Source: DCist

A Serious Man is several barrels full of laughs. But it's as serious-minded about suffering and misfortune as any film I've seen.

May 11, 2010 Full Review Source: Looking Closer
Looking Closer

The Coens the way I like them. This is their second best film after The Man Who Wasn't There.

April 2, 2010 Full Review Source: Cinema Sight
Cinema Sight

In this Coen brothers comedy, a good-hearted, Midwestern family man finds his life unraveling at work and at home although he's done nothing to deserve it.

March 25, 2010 Full Review Source: Moving Pictures Magazine | Comments (3)
Moving Pictures Magazine

Una farsa genial, con aires de tragedia, que resulta en una brillante alegoría sobre la condición humana. Una más para el podio de lo mejor de los Coen.

March 1, 2010 Full Review Source: Uruguay Total
Uruguay Total

Simultaneamente divertido, melancólico e angustiante, Um Homem Sério é um filme de adultos para adultos.

February 20, 2010 Full Review Source: Cinema em Cena
Cinema em Cena

Lebowski, meet Gopnik.

February 10, 2010 Full Review Source: Projection Booth
Projection Booth

The Coens' creatively reinterpret the American Jewish experience in a cautionary folk tale with very amusing complications held together by pitch-perfect ensemble and design.

February 7, 2010 Full Review Source: Film-Forward.com
Film-Forward.com

Finally, a deep, dark comedy that quietly tickles the intellectual, moral and situational funny bone without pandering to easy laughs or overdone bathroom humour ...

January 7, 2010 Full Review Source: JWR

Audience Reviews for A Serious Man

After a really interesting and haunting prologue, this film is a 90 minutes collection of uncomfortable situations for the protagonist and viewer that fails to get a point across, produce laughter or even entertain on any level. Maybe you have to be Jewish to appreciate the character's struggle. I can safely say that I simply didn't get it. Shocking, that this came from the Coen Brothers.
September 20, 2013
ironclad1609

Super Reviewer

I've watched it a few times now, and even though I still don't have it all figured out (as if one is even supposed to), things become a little less hazy with each viewing. This is a great type of film to discuss long after it has ended.

The Coens have made some strange and off-the-wall films, but this one may just take the cake. In terms of style, it most closely resembles The Man Who Wasn't There. That was their most serious film. This one is also quite serious, and very dark, but there's still some humor, much like how No Country For Old Men had humor, even if it was subtle. Had I understood more of the references, I probably would have found it even funnier, but as it stands, I still laughed a bit throughout, even if I did so in an awkward and uneasy way.

Some of this film escaped me, as I am not Jewish, but, as a Catholic, I found myself relating to some things, as Catholic guilt and Jewish guilt are very similar, and the interactions Larry has with the Rabbis are similar to things I've experienced from being Catholic.

This is an odd and awkward film, but I think that's why I liked it. It's not so obtuse and out there in a David Lynch kind of way, but this is definitely a film for a limited audience. One reviewer on here (hypathio7) called it the New Fiddler on the Roof- something that actually fits quite well. I see it as a loose take on The Book of Job, but Fiddler works too.

The look of this film is just fantastic. Aesthetically and with the decor and stuff...wow...big noses, huge glasses...the hairstyles....the clothes...the cars...everything is top notch. They nailed the look of the late 60s perfectly. The music rules too, I love that Jefferson Airplane figures prominently into things, and works as a pay off to a great joke.

As should be expected, the writing, direction, and camera work are top-notch. Some have said that this is the type of movie you get to make after winning an Oscar. I agree. Burn After Reading was done after they won the Oscar, but after that, the Coens went all in on this, and as a result, have created one of their most astounding, meaty, and thought provoking films.

The performances are dynamite, and I like that the two most well known actors in the film are only like medium well known in the mainstream (Kind and Arkin). It was fun seeing Lerner in a brief cameo too (he has previously worked with the Coens for those who didn't know). Using unknowns for the rest of the cast was an excellent decision. I hope to see them in more films in the future.

Drawing on the counterculture, many aspects of Jewish culture and religion, personal experiences (although this film is not autobiographical), math and physics, and a ton of other stuff, this film is some heavy shit, but it's not ponderous, pretentious, or boring, even if it is rather slow. Yeah, it's not for everyone, but for those that can get on the wavelength, there is a lot of greatness to be found here.
June 27, 2013
cosmo313
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

An 'intelligent' film which says more in silence than what it does in words. I tried really hard to care about these characters but I just found them boring and annoying.
October 3, 2012
StarCrossedVoyager

Super Reviewer

I'll call this one The Little Lebowski in the Coens' career: a simple story about simple characters who just can't get a break, but instead of stumbling into a cartoonish and over-the-top crime story, Larry Gopnik is confronted by reality ad nauseum, facing calamities in his marriage and his job and his faith all at once. At the beginning, you run the risk of being downright bored, but this is a film that you can't turn away from - the character Michael Stuhlbarg creates is incredibly pathetic, but you can't help but get wrapped up in his life, and even cheer for him a little. Very much a story of a man versus seemingly cosmic forces, at the same time it's story about the day-to-day grind that life can sometimes become. The ending is almost uplifting, even - almost. This is the Coens, after all. Unfairly panned, it's a rather fine movie.
September 20, 2012
danperry17

Super Reviewer

    1. Sy Ableman: No one's playing the blame game here.
    – Submitted by Thomas P (6 months ago)
    1. Rabbi Scott: No, of course not. I am the junior rabbi. And it's true, the point-of-view of somebody who's older and perhaps had similar problems might be more valid. And you should see the senior rabbi as well, by all means. Or even Minda if you can get in, he's quite busy. But maybe - can I share something with you? Because I too have had the feeling of losing track of Hashem, which is the problem here. I too have forgotten how to see Him in the world. And when that happens you think, well, if I can't see Him, He isn't there any more, He's gone. But that's not the case. You just need to remember how to see Him. Am I right? [He rises and goes to the window]
    2. Rabbi Scott: I mean, the parking lot here. Not much to see. It is a different angle on the same parking lot we saw from the Hebrew school window. But if you imagine yourself a visitor, somebody who isn't familiar with these... autos and such... somebody still with a capacity for wonder... Someone with a fresh... perspective. That's what it is, Larry.
    3. Larry Gopnik: Um...
    4. Rabbi Scott: Because with the right perspective you can see Hashem, you know, reaching into the world. He is in the world, not just in shul. It sounds to me like you're looking at the world, looking at your wife, through tired eyes. It sounds like she's become a sort of... thing... a problem... a thing...
    5. Larry Gopnik: Well, she's, she's seeing Sy Ableman.
    6. Rabbi Scott: Well, she's, she's seeing Sy Ableman.
    7. Larry Gopnik: She's, they're planning, that's why they want the Gett.
    8. Rabbi Scott: Oh. I'm sorry.
    9. Larry Gopnik: It was his idea.
    10. Rabbi Scott: Well, they do need a Gett to remarry in the faith. But this is life. For you too. You can't cut yourself off from the mystical or you'll be-you'll remain-completely lost. You have to see these things as expressions of God's will. You don't have to like it, of course. Larry Gopnik: The boss isn't always right, but he's always the boss.
    11. Larry Gopnik: The boss isn't always right, but he's always the boss.
    12. Rabbi Scott: Ha-ha-ha! That's right, things aren't so bad. Look at the parking lot, Larry. [Rabbi Scott gazes out, marveling]
    13. Rabbi Scott: Just look at that parking lot.
    – Submitted by Samira O (20 months ago)
    1. Clive Park: I received an unsatisfactory grade. In fact: F, the failing grade.
    – Submitted by Scott T (2 years ago)
    1. Larry Gopnik: The Uncertainty Principle. It proves we can't ever really know... what's going on. So it shouldn't bother you. Not being able to figure anything out. Although you will be responsible for this on the mid-term.
    – Submitted by Chris P (3 years ago)
    1. Sy Ableman: I'm a serious man, Larry.
    – Submitted by Chris P (3 years ago)
View all quotes (5)

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Foreign Titles

  • A Serious Man (FR)
  • Un tipo serio (ES)
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