A Serious Man
“A Serious Man” is the story of an ordinary man’s search for clarity in a universe where Jefferson Airplane is on the radio and F-Troop is on TV. It is 1967, and Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg), a physics professor at a quiet Midwestern university, has just been informed by his wife Judith (Sari Lennick) that she is leaving him. She has fallen in love with one of his more pompous colleagues, Sy Ableman (Fred Melamed), who seems to her a more substantial person than the feckless Larry. Larry’s unemployable brother Arthur (Richard Kind) is sleeping on the couch, his son Danny (Aaron Wolf) is a discipline problem and a shirker at Hebrew school, and his daughter Sarah (Jessica McManus) is filching money from his wallet in order to save up for a nose job. While his wife and Sy Ableman blithely make new domestic arrangements, and his brother becomes more and more of a burden, an anonymous hostile letter-writer is trying to sabotage Larry’s chances for tenure at the university. Also, a graduate student seems to be trying to bribe him for a passing grade while at the same time threatening to sue him for defamation. Plus, the beautiful woman next door torments him by sunbathing nude. Struggling for equilibrium, Larry seeks advice from three different rabbis. Can anyone help him cope with his afflictions and become a righteous person – a mensch – a serious man?
This film covers a lot of topics, sometimes in a humorous manner, but also with a lot of strong language. It is 1967 and a Jewish boy named Danny (Aaron Wolf) is about to have his barmitzvah. He is a typical boy who enjoys watching “F-Troop” on TV and who occasionally gets into trouble in school. His father, Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg), is a professor of physics at a university and he has just been hit with the news that his wife Judith (Sari Lennick) is leaving him, having fallen for his fellow professor Sy Ableman (Fred Melamed). Sy hugs Larry and comforts him, while at the same time planning to take his wife and live in Larry’s home! He is a snake to be sure.
As the pressures mount, Larry finds himself desperately needing more cash flow and at the same time he is bribed rather handsomely by one of his failing students who wants a good grade. Larry resists the temptation but then begins to consider it as bills flood his mailbox. The various rabbis he visits either give him little or ill-conceived advice, or ignore him entirely. There are some humorous moments in these scenes, but the language in the film is very strong, along with female frontal nudity as a woman sunbathes and we cannot award our Dove Seal to this film.