The Tomatometer rating – based on the published opinions of hundreds of film and television critics – is a trusted measurement of movie and TV programming quality for millions of moviegoers. It represents the percentage of professional critic reviews that are positive for a given film or television show.
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The Tomatometer is 60% or higher.
The Tomatometer is 59% or lower.
Movies and TV shows are Certified Fresh with a steady Tomatometer of 75% or higher after a set amount of reviews (80 for wide-release movies, 40 for limited-release movies, 20 for TV shows), including 5 reviews from Top Critics.
Percentage of users who rate a movie or TV show positively.
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?
While there are plenty of oddball touches, some mystifying (like the Yiddish-language prologue, set in a Polish shtetl and seeming to have little to do with what follows it; and the abrupt ending) -- we see in it some genuine fondness for the characters.
Since everyone is turned into such a caricature, the answers feel optional. It's hard to forget that Larry's fate is being controlled not by God or luck or even his own worst instincts, but by the Coens.
This is the world the Coens delve into with each and every film, and yes, it's a total nightmare. They may do it with style and a smirk, but we should always consider the larger questions they're asking.
That song (Jefferson Airplane's Somebody to Love), which becomes a sort of mantra to the movie, is the key to understanding what the Coens are after: When the truth is found to be lies, and all the joy within you dies, you better find somebody to love.
So which is it: a simply pointless existence? Or a world so complicated, we can't grasp the point? If you think the Coens are going to try and answer that question, you haven't seen many of their movies.
A Serious Man is wholly a Coen brothers movie, in that it's full of exaggerated characters and comic cruelty, anchored to a way of looking at the world that seems to posit a fundamental absence of meaning.
Watching and wondering how and when he'll snap provides dark humor, yes -- we're glad we're not this poor guy -- but also a mounting sense of unease, and it should provoke lengthy and serious debate about the nature of faith.