A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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.
Great for mature teenagers, but only if their parents can deal with the likely discussions that result
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?
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