Movie Details

A SERIOUS MAN

Larry Gopnik, a physics professor at a quiet mid-western university has 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. Larry`s unemployable brother Arthur is sleeping on the couch, his son Danny is a discipline problem, and his daughter Sarah is filching money from his wallet in order to save up for a nose job. Just when you thought things can`t get any worse, an anonymous hostile letter-writer is trying to sabotage Larry`s chances for tenure at the university. Also, a graduate student seems to be trying to bribe him for a passing grade while at the same time threatening to sue him for defamation. Plus, the beautiful woman next door torments him by sunbathing nude. Struggling for equilibrium, Larry seeks advice from three different rabbis.

Language: English
Subtitle: NA
Classification: M18
Release Date: 18 Feb 2010
Genre: Comedy
Running Time: 1 Hour 45 Minutes
Distributor: Shaw Organisation
Cast: Michael Stuhlbarg, Steve Park, Katherine Borowitz, Fred Melamed
Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Format: 35MM

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Review
Writer: Lai Swee Wei

Writer Ratings:
Overall:
Cast:
Plot:
Effects: NA
Cinematography:

Watch this if you liked: “Burn After Reading”

The opening scene was the oddest, yet the most intriguing scene set in a Polish stetl (Jewish village) a hundred years before, where a hard-working couple face an eerie dybbuk (evil spirit). Then, the story shifts to the bright humdrum suburban life in 1967 as Larry Gopnik (outstandingly personified by stage actor Michael Stuhlbarg) makes each step of his plagued life. According to the Coen brothers, the initial story has no developmental relationship to what follows other than to set the tone.

The film's serious about the craft of storytelling, both in form and function, with a full-on dedication to characterisation, pitch-perfect performances, and a cinematic backdrop that is both immersive and nostalgic. Guess that's why it was awarded Best Original Screenplay at the 2009 National Board of Review Awards and at the National Society of Film Critics Awards 2009.

As the best original screenplay goes, Larry Gopnik, a Jewish college professor of physics, lives with his troubled family in the suburbs of Minneapolis. His son Danny habitually smokes marijuana in secret, his daughter Sarah appears to be stealing money from her father to get a nose job, and his wife Judith (Sari Lennick) wants a divorce so she can be with family friend and widower, Sy Ableman (Fred Melamed). Sadly, it doesn't end here. Trouble seems to lurk at every corner for this man who is desperate for answers. Soon, optimism shines down in the form of the rabbis he consults with as he tries to make sense of things. But rather than wise advice, they deliver scarce and laughable responses to his traumatic experiences. Look forward to the rabbis' vague replies that are extraneous.

The story speaks to reality beyond any sort of cultural barrier. We might not all go to Hebrew school, but we can relate to Larry's woeful desperation and even the disdain that leaks from Judith as she looks and speaks to Larry. Michael Stuhlbarg's performance was quite credible as a character that's much more of a naïve pushover. You tend to feel for this guy as the first disaster strikes. On another note, the soundtrack for some reason has a similar tone to "Twilight"'s instrumental backdrop - slow and wandering.

From the seemingly disparate opening, "A Serious Man" is interesting, well-played, and engaging with the neverending drama that plagues our protagonist.


Cinema Online, 23 February 2010
   
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Classification
Effective 15 July 2011
G - Suitable for all ages
PG - Suitable for all ages, but parents should provide guidance to their young
PG13 - Suitable for persons aged 13 and above, but parental guidance is advised for children below 13
NC16 - Suitable for persons aged 16 years and above
M18 - Suitable for persons aged 18 years and above
R21 - Restricted to persons aged 21 and above only
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