I saw this movie as part of the AMC Best Picture nominated showcase. It would not have been a movie I picked out to see. It was nominated for Best Picture and Best Screenplay.
I, personally, did not like this film and neither did the friend I was with. It was boring, it dragged, the ending was terrible, and the plot was all over the place. I am not exactly sure what we were supposed to get out of this film. For me, it is basically two hours of my life I will never get back. It is a Cohen Brothers film and they are kind of hit and miss with me, I liked No Country for Old Men and Paris, je t’aime, but wasn’t crazy about The Big Lebowski.
The plot for A Serious Man is basically the unraveling of a Jewish Man’s life. It begins when his wife says she wants to leave him for another man. He doesn’t understand why or where the marriage went wrong. And she doesn’t give an explanation. He is also a professor and must deal with a Korean student who isn’t passing his class whose father tries to bribe him with a large amount cash. And he is under review for tenure (which is very stressful believe me). Also his kids don’t respect him or anything he says. Plus his wayward brother is staying with them and gets into some kind of legal trouble. It seems like a pretty bad week in the life of Larry Gopnik but I am not sure why we have to be subjected to it. It is definitely not entertaining to watch his world fall apart and I cannot really find a take home message in this film except maybe that being part of an organized religion makes bad times in life worse, since it seemed that his being Jewish just made everything more complicated and difficult. And perhaps that religion really offers us no answers to the real questions in life. But then again maybe I just don’t get this film. It happens. I really thought the story was perhaps underdeveloped. We don’t bond with the character so we really don’t care about his misfortunes and I certainly did not learn anything from watching his world fall apart. Also the ending is unsatisfying so don’t go into this film thinking the ending will tie it all together, it doesn’t. The film just seems to stop.
The acting was okay, nothing to write home about for me. Larry Gopnik was played by Michael Stuhlbarg. He is a Jewish physics professor whose life falls apart. He doesn’t know why or how to fix it. His children and wife don’t respect him and he seems to be a weak man. You feel sorry for him but also feel like some of this might just be his fault because he seems apathetic about his life. Stuhlburg does a nice job playing him, he is a believable character. Richard Kind plays Uncle Arthur, a genius who is socially inept who gets into some trouble with the police during the course of the movie. Richard Kind does a decent job with the savant-like character. Fred Melamed plays the other man, Sy Ableman, who is Larry’s wife’s boyfriend. He is a touchy feely almost creepy character who almost seems like he wants to be friends with Larry even while he is stealing his wife. This guy is easy to dislike. Fred Melamed does a good job with his character. Sari Lennick plays Judith Gopnik ,Larry’s wife. She always seems combative but you don’t know why. Perhaps she is just frustrated with her life. And Aaron Wolff plays Danny Gopnik, Larry’s son. Danny has a drama all his own in the film. And you wonder how it is that his parents let him get away with everything he does. Perhaps another angle to this film is to be careful of what you let your children do while you are dealing with your own problems. Danny has no respect for his father or the rules of his schools. His role in this film seems to be to run from the school bully and to yell at his Dad to fix the TV. I think Aaron does a decent job with the role he has. Overall all the acting was decent; the characters while boring were believable.
Overall, I wouldn’t recommend for anyone to watch this film. I didn’t like it and neither did my friend who went with me, but the people on the row behind us seemed to enjoy it. It seems to be one of those films you either love or hate. My suggestion to you would be to wait until it comes out on cable to watch it.