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A Serious Man (2009)

Michael Stuhlbarg , Richard Kind  |  R |  DVD
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (239 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Kind, Fred Melamed, Aaron Wolff
  • Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: French, Spanish
  • Dubbed: French, Spanish
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Focus Features
  • DVD Release Date: February 9, 2010
  • Run Time: 106 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (239 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B003102JDM
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #24,267 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "A Serious Man" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Becoming Serious
  • Creating 1967
  • Hebrew and Yiddish for Goys

  • Editorial Reviews

    Amazon.com

    Joel and Ethan Coen make movies like nobody else's, but even by their standards A Serious Man is in a class by itself: a complete original that's one of the brothers' best. After a deeply weird Yiddish folk-tale prologue set in 19th-century Poland (and framed in the old 1.33:1 format), the picture shifts to the region and era of the Coens' own upbringing, a Minneapolis suburb in 1967. Larry Gopnik (a superbly concentrated portrait in comic anguish by Michael Stuhlbarg) is a college physics prof facing a welter of crises and distractions: review by the tenure committee, son Danny's bar mitzvah, a cryptic-verging-on-sinister protest from a Korean-American student, the alienation of wife Judith's affections by widower Sy Ableman, the ongoing encroachment of brother Arthur and his sebaceous cyst--and don't even mention the proto-Nazi who lives next door. All these, and more, form a screenplay of such intricacy that the blackly comic tensions of one shaggy-dog narrative strand leap synapse-like to another; the movie becomes a symphony of metaphysical dread. Working again with world-class cameraman Roger Deakins and editing, as always, under the pseudonym Roderick Jaynes, the Coens maintain impeccable control over the movie's look and timing. This is more crucial than ever, given that in the precarious universe they define, "actions have consequences." Then again, so does nonaction; not ordering "the monthly main selection" from the Columbia Record Club means you've ordered it. The main-title credits almost flaunt the fact that most of the cast members will be unfamiliar to us (though they all deliver); best known are Richard Kind as Arthur, Adam Arkin as Larry's divorce lawyer, and Michael Lerner (the studio boss in Barton Fink) doing a hilarious, wordless cameo as Solomon Schlutz. Special praise is due Fred Melamed, seizing the role of a lifetime as the unctuous Sy Ableman; Amy Landecker as Mrs. Samsky, the multifariously zoned-out siren who's Larry's other next-door neighbor; and Avi Hoptman as Arlen, Larry's mealy-mouthed academic colleague who can't resist hinting at the latest rumblings from the tenure committee, even if he can't really say anything. --Richard T. Jameson

    Product Description

    Academy Award®-winning directors Joel and Ethan Coen return to their comedy roots with this original and darkly humorous story about one ordinary man’s quest to become a serious man. Physics professor Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) can’t believe his life: His wife is leaving him for his best friend, his unemployed brother won’t move off the couch, someone is threatening his career, his kids are a mystery and his neighbor is tormenting him by sunbathing nude. Struggling to make sense of it all, Larry consults three different rabbis and their answers lead him on a twisted journey of faith, family, delinquent behavior and mortality in the film critics rave is “seriously awesome!” (Michael Hogan, Vanity Fair)

    Customer Reviews

    Most Helpful Customer Reviews
    246 of 274 people found the following review helpful
    By GP
    Format:DVD
    [This is an attempt to interpret the complex narrative of the movie. Please read this *after* you've watched the movie - else skip to the last line :)]

    Larry Gopnik is a professor of physics who teaches his students about 'Schrodinger's Cat' - the idea that the fate of an entity remains undefined right until the moment an agent acts and 'collapses the wave function,' so to speak. Gopnik believes that the story of the cat serves no purpose other than to illustrate a mathematical truth - and yet, strangely enough, Gopnik's human fate is no less uncertain and contingent than that of Schrodinger's hypothetical cat. For example, the very moment Gopnik "acts" to accept a bribe and pass his Korean student, his telephone rings, and he receives ominous news from his doctor. By this time, the strange causalities in the movie will have compelled us to ask if Gopnik's phone would have rung had he chosen differently. As Gopnik comes to realize, the "truth" of mathematics and numbers - be it in the form of Physics, the Mentaculus, or the Kabbalah - is beside the point. What is of essence is the human story.

    To be sure, ASM is not an amoral thought experiment about actions determining outcomes. The movie takes a very specific moral position: "Receive with simplicity everything that happens to you." If you willfully "act" in defiance of your fate, you will reap the consequences of your actions.

    Gopnik is a man who almost never acts. As Michael Wood points out in his LRB review, Gopnik lives in a world where "agency always belongs to someone else." Agency belongs to Sy, to the wife, to the son, and even to the Columbia Record club that makes you pay for taking no action at all. On the few occasions that Gopnik chooses to act, he meets with disaster.
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    18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars Haym Salomon Airplane June 27, 2010
    Format:DVD
    What makes this wry comedy special isn't the humour. Although you'll have a smile on your face much of the time (certainly not at the ending), there were only a couple of laugh out loud moments. Rather, it's the thought-provoking and stimulating storyline about a Jewish college professor, Larry Gopnik, whose life seems to be unraveling, and who seeks spiritual guidance in vain.

    His wife is leaving him for another man. His psychologically impaired brother has moved in, stirring up even more domestic turmoil. He is up for tenure but someone has been sending anonymous letters of complaint about him to university officials. He has to deal with a difficult Korean student, and the student's father, who offer to bribe him in exchange for a passing grade. And he has money problems.

    Gopnik comes across as something of a pathetic sap who could solve some of his problems by just standing up for himself, but his ultimate fate is apparently beyond his control. The ending could have been written by Schopenhauer. Even though I don't agree with, or like, the movie's message, I still respect and admire the way it has been put on film.

    Aside from the fact that it probably helps to be Jewish (I'm not) when digesting the film, the only problem I have with it is that I kept waiting in vain to find out the significance of the film's beginning: a supernatural(?) scene in what appears to be 19h century Poland. I don't know if I missed it, but I was unable to see any connection between this opening and the rest of the movie.

    With all the garbage that is churned out by Hollywood nowadays, A SERIOUS MAN is a real gem of a flick, albeit an ultimately depressing one.
    Was this review helpful to you?
    76 of 92 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars Absolute masterpiece January 7, 2010
    By David
    Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
    Yes, it's not for everyone. A strong grasp of both Jewish tradition and quantum physics would do the potential viewer well in getting the absolute most out of the film. But, as someone who is by no means an expert in either area, this one hit me on quite a base level in its unflinching and very true-to-life depiction of a man's life coming apart at the seams and all the existential angst that ensues. The wonderful thing is, A Serious Man is not only deeply resonant and moving, but quite hilarious as well- in that dark, dark way that may be just a little too dark for some.

    The Coens have always caught some flack for their supposed misanthropic elitism; or, in other words, what has been seen by some critics as a sort of contemptuous mocking of the characters they depict onscreen, the two directors never fully granting their filmic creations emotional sympathy. If it was previously easy to debunk this claim, it is now, with A Serious Man, a piece of cake. Has there been a performance in recent years more gut-wrenchingly honest and genuinely pathos-exuding than Michael Stuhlbarg here as protagonist Larry Gopnik? That the narrative thrust of the film is essentially centered around all the horrifying and humiliating events that befall Gopnik does not necessarily mean that the Coens thumb their noses down at this character. If we take into consideration the personal nature of the film (set in a time and place very much like when/where they grew up, and populated by characters probably not unlike those they knew), then it comes as no surprise that A Serious Man is the most studied and 'serious' Coen brothers film to date.

    Simply in terms of sheer film-making craft, this is the Coens, and certainly cinematographer Roger Deakins, at the peak of their respective crafts.
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    Most Recent Customer Reviews
    3.0 out of 5 stars Not my favorite Coen Bros
    Not my favorite Coen Bros. film, but definitely worth a watch! Unfortunately, my ROKU kept cutting out on me while I was trying to watch it!
    Published 4 days ago by Joseph Totton
    3.0 out of 5 stars not their best performance but decent
    cohen brothers are genius in my opinion. not their best performance but decent.
    Published 21 days ago by Christoph Harlan
    5.0 out of 5 stars great dvd. everything about this transaction was first rate
    great dvd.everything about this transaction was first rate.
    Published 23 days ago by TIM MCQUISTON
    4.0 out of 5 stars Idiosyncratic Characters
    Great Characters. This movie had some really interesting characters that were given special dimension with their Idiosyncratic quirks. Read more
    Published 26 days ago by SmokingChicken
    4.0 out of 5 stars Don't come expecting 'easy' answers, but if you've got Questions...
    This is a seriously contemplative/ inquisitive/ and even somewhat 'maddening' film - actually very difficult to get a secure handle on....... Read more
    Published 26 days ago by Book & Music thief, from HI
    5.0 out of 5 stars Staring into the void, and nothing is staring back
    This film is not for everyone, because the conclusions could be disturbing. The protagonist, Larry Gopnik, is searching for meaning and understanding in a world devoid of both. Read more
    Published 1 month ago by Larry Benjamin
    4.0 out of 5 stars A must see if you are a Cohen Bros. fan!
    A great Cohen film that I overlooked. Watched it twice and enjoyed it more the second time as I missed a lot of subtlety the first go!
    Published 2 months ago by Michael B.
    5.0 out of 5 stars Great ending
    This movie is very funny, in a sardonic, head-shaking kind of way, though sometimes laugh-out-loud too. Read more
    Published 2 months ago by E. Beckstrom
    1.0 out of 5 stars Just not my cup of tea
    Gav up half way through. Sorry. Sort of fun to see neighborhoods just like I grew up in.. Oh well.
    Published 2 months ago by Richard Scherer
    5.0 out of 5 stars Present day Job
    What a great film! The Coen Bros.have done it again, taking Biblical material this time and updating it with a relevant and contemporary spin.
    Published 2 months ago by Laura Dice
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    Topic From this Discussion
    The Ending to "A Serious Man" (Warning! Spoiler Alert!)
    Just saw it for the second time last night. It was almost a "Duh!" moment -- a hit-me-over-the-head pun. Larry goes to not one, not two, but three rabbis for advice and comfort. He gets little or no help. At the end of the picture, the Hebrew school teacher is fumbling through his... Read More
    Nov 27, 2009 by JKF |  See all 95 posts
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