Tag: Michael Stuhlbarg

Movie Review: A Serious Man (2009)

Posted December 13, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Movie-Comedy / 0 Comments

a serious manTitle: A Serious Man
Released: 2009
Joel CoenEthan Coen
StarsMichael Stuhlbarg, Richard Kind and Fred Melamed
Genre: Black Comedy

I have been a fan of the Coen brothers for a long time (Miller’s Crossing and The Big Lebowski probably sit on my favourites list). Joel and Ethan Coen know how to tell an interesting story and I especially enjoy their dark humour. One of their weirdest films is A Serious Man starring Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Kind and Fred Melamed. The film tells the story of Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg), a physics professor on the verge of possibly losing everything.

This is the type of movie that even the critics were calling “Enigmatic to the point of inscrutability” (Slate.com). One possible analysis of the film compares it to the book of Job in the Bible. While the Coen brothers deny the connection it is not hard to see. The viewers are introduced to Larry as a successful man living the great American dream in 1960s Midwestern suburb. Much like Job, Larry’s faith is challenged as things start to fall apart, starting with his wife wanting a divorce to the possibility of losing his job security. At the end of the book of Job, God talks to Job in the form of a whirlwind, while A Serious Man ends in a tornado.

In the book of Job, he seeks out the advice from three friends Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, while Larry seeks out help from three rabbis. Larry wanted answers to a question that he asks multiple times throughout the film, “What’s going on?” A question that might seem stupid, but it could also be reflective, philosophical or even theological. The three rabbis all give completely different answers to his question. It is either God’s will,  answering the question in the form of a riddle suggests even the rabbi is seeking he same answer or refusing to see him completely, proposes that the question will always go unanswered.

a serious man lead

Much like the book of Job, each different situation in A Serious Man seems to compound and unfold into each other in such a way to make Larry’s life feel like it is falling apart. Larry is constantly trying to seek out the answers to life and found out what he might have done to deserve all of this. Although it is pretty clear to the audience that it is Larry’s inactions that have caused the majority of problems. However there is still space in the movie to allow for the reflection on life’s big question; what is going on?

It is possible that the Coen brothers are trying to portray the usefulness (or lack of) of religion in the modern age. There is also the likelihood that the movie thinks that life is meaningless and trying to understand the world around you only leads to more confusion. No matter what your perspective of A Serious Man is, it will leave you with more questions than answers. The first time you watched that ending, I am sure you were asking yourself the very same question, “What is going on?”