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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Amid the movie's acrid humor and mature subject matter is a good deal of food for thought -- if not a constructively positive take-away. The lead character struggles to do the right thing, and his actions have definitive consequences.
Positive Role Models
The characters here are all fairly flawed -- that makes them realistic, but it doesn't necessarily make them the best role models. The lead character makes an important moral decision and is found wanting; at other times, though, he demonstrates real decency and endeavors to do the right thing.
Violence & Scariness
Some violence, including a stabbing (with blood) in the prologue. There's also a shooting and a beating; these take place in dream sequences but are depicted with vigor and blood. The corpse of a hunted deer is also seen.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A topless sunbather is seen from a distance; a dream sequence includes a sex scene in which a woman is wearing a bra and a man's bare chest is shown. Discussions of sex and infidelity.
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Constant, including "f--k" and its derivatives, "s--t," "a--hole," "pissed," "crap," "oh my God," and "Jesus." "Jew" is used briefly, presumably derogatorily.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters drink wine and hard liquor and smoke pipes and cigarettes. Marijuana is also smoked -- in some cases by 12-year-old boys -- and discussed extensively.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that the Coen brothers' A Serious Man features extensive useof marijuana (in some cases by pre-teen boys) and lots of profanity (from "f--k" and "s--t" on down the line). There's some sexual material as well (a distant view of a topless sunbather, a dream-sequence sex scene), and some brief but bloody moments of violence. The movie also offers viewers complex questions to ponder on the subjects of faith and religion. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
A Serious Man seems designed to baffle, but it actually lingers long after its small, sly jokes and plot complications finish. It's a particularly thin slice-of-life look that peers at a '60s Midwestern Jewish family as if through a microscope. Ethan and Joel Coen have always been interested in morality as a theme, and A Serious Man is no exception, with Larry (played by stage actor Stuhlbarg in an excellent performance) dealing with the large and small indignities of life while looking to religion for answers, even though he fails to find them.
Don't go to A Serious Man expecting the big laughs and quotable lines of, say, The Big Lebowski; this movie is, while funny, a much more serious work. The cinematography by longtime Coen collaborator Roger Deakins is superb, and the entire cast does excellent work. A Serious Man may look like a finely observed, small-scale work, but the questions it asks will linger with you long after its haunting final image.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.