A Serious Man

Movie review by
James Rocchi, Common Sense Media
A Serious Man Movie Poster Image
Brilliant but bleak comedy for mature Coen brothers fans.
  • R
  • 2009
  • 105 minutes
Parents recommend

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 6 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

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 & Representations

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

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.

Sex

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.

Language

Constant, including "f--k" and its derivatives, "s--t," "a--hole," "pissed," "crap," "oh my God," and "Jesus." "Jew" is used briefly, presumably derogatorily.

Consumerism
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.

What 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.

User Reviews

Adult Written byPS95 December 24, 2010

Great for mature teenagers, but only if their parents can deal with the likely discussions that result

Not for young children, primarily because they would not understand the serious themes dealt with. Great for mature teenagers who are beginning to question lif... Continue reading
Parent of a 16 and 16 year old Written byxmasterxofxmyxd... February 28, 2010
A Serious Man is a deep, complex, and very mature black comedy. It explores many mature, personal themes while keeping a great pace, and raising a lot of intere... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old April 17, 2010

A good black comedy, but most kid's wont enjoy it

This is a very bleak, obscure comedy by the Coen Brothers, most notable for making movies like "Fargo" "The Big Lebowski" and "Burn Aft... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bymasonlackey January 15, 2011

inspirational

a great storyline very inspirational movie its great!!!

What's the story?

In 1967 Minnesota, husband/father/physics professor Larry Gopnick (Michael Stuhlbarg) is dealing with a series of calamities -- his wife wants a divorce, his children are indifferent, a student is trying to bribe him for a better grade, and he's waiting to hear whether he'll receive academic tenure. As Larry tries to deal with these problems (and his son prepares for his bar mitzvah while dodging the pot dealer he owes money to), all the characters ask: What does God want from me? And what does he want for me?

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. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the film's central question: Why do bad things happen to good people? Do our actions have consequences?

  • The film also offers great opportunities for discussion of the natureof religious belief. What questions does the movie raise about faith? Does it provide any answers?

  • What does this movie have in common thematically with the Coen brothers' other movies? What do their films say about the importance of morality and ethics in a world that seems to respect neither?

Movie details

For kids who love quirky movies

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