It is 1967, and the world of physics professor Larry Gopnik, a simple Jewish man, is falling apart. His crazy brother with a bad neck infection is homeless and sleeping on his couch, and his wife has announced that she is in love with someone else.
His soon to be bar mitzvah-ed son is more worried about the television reception then his parents breaking up, and all his daughter wants to do is use the bathroom - but the crazy uncle is always in there. He also has a psycho military-like neighbor who never seems to work and is always with his own son either playing catch or hunting - while trying to steal land from Larry. To make matters worse, Larry has been to the doctor for some tests and forgets about the results amidst all these happenings in his life. And to top things off, he is about to make tenure (or not) at the university at which he teaches.
Larry has been an upstanding member of his community, has raised children, paid his taxes, and he never hurt a fly (although he does have strong sexual feelings for his other neighbor - a voluptuous, tanned woman who sunbathes naked in her backyard and whose husband is always out of town and who cannot seem to crack a smile, even during sex).
All of this drama plays out in two hours as Larry tries to come to grips with his life. He is a man who has problems, he a serious man, he is a man who takes one thing at a time, trying not to melt down amidst all the pain and suffering he is going through. When things get bad in Larry’s life, they only seem to get worse, and his life unravels. He wants to seek advice from the head rabbi in town, who unfortunately does not have time for him. All Larry wants to be is a person of integrity and honor - a mensch. A Serious Man is a serious movie with serious questions about life and why things happen.
Michael Stuhlbarg is the perfect actor to play the suffering Larry - he carries angst in his face and pain on his sleeve. As Larry goes through the motions, we feel for him and for his lot in life. Richard Kind is fantastic as the feel sorry for uncle but it is Michael Stuhlbarg’s film - he truly is the star of this movie.
This is yet another black comedy from the Academy Award-winning Coen brothers (Burn After Reading and No Country for Old Men), only this one blacker and bleaker then their previous films. You leave this film questioning the meaning of life, and isn’t this what going to the movies is all about? Well, not really, but certainly in the Coen's world.