A Serious Man, the new Coen brothers’ film, is not one of those indie flicks that take you on some long-winded journey in an attempt to make you feel empowered and boisterous. But rather, this witty film spins you around and around in circles until you get dizzy. And when you catch your breath to refocus, you realize you are exactly where you started off: comfortable and confused.
A Serious Man, features Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) a father, husband and physics professor at a quiet Midwestern university. He is a figure everyone can relate to. Larry is somewhere in his 40’s, has a stable career, and what would seem like a stable life. His hopeless brother Arthur (Richard Kind) yells at him for being given everything. However, the grass is always greener on the other side, Larry is tormented with the everyday.
The everyday, in Larry’s case is: Bribery from students for a passing grade; a wife heavily engaged in a love affair- ensuing a request for a divorce; a daughter who launders his money for the purpose of a nose job; a financial and emotionally dependent brother; a taunting naked sun-bathing neighbor and an anonymous writer who sends vulgar letters to the University in an effort to hinder his chances at tenure. Okay, so this is not everyone’s everyday qualms; but everybody has those little everyday issues that poke at us, as they squeal for a non-existent resolution.
In an attempt to rid himself of the constantly jabbing everyday qualms, Larry turns to the temple–more specifically, the Rabbi. Larry meets with three different Rabbis, each of which offers little insight into his dilemmas. One Rabbi almost outright argues that it all means nothing and that he should just continue on with his life. Of course this was not the eye-opening insight Larry, or the viewer was hoping for. With this analysis, Larry continues to continue with the everyday, struggling and juggling his problems as the plot bounces between dilemmas.
So, I guess the question becomes, why watch a movie that just makes you dizzy? I am no Rabbi, and I too don’t have an answer. But, perhaps it is a chance to get away from our nagging everyday issues and instead, relish in the fact that squirming characters like Larry are getting no further in relinquishing their personal issues than we all are.
Conclusion: Not a must-see, but a good way to appreciate your own lawn.