A Serious Man - description
A Serious Man is a 2009 black comedy film written, produced, and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. The film stars Michael Stuhlbarg, Sari Lennick, Fred Melamed, Richard Kind, and Aaron Wolff and tells the story of an ordinary man who has to cope with undeserved trials that challenge his acceptance of an orderly universe overseen by an attentive deity. The film has attracted a highly positive critical response, including a Golden Globe nomination for Stuhlbarg, a place on both the American Film Institute's and National Board of Review's Top 10 Film Lists of 2009, and a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Picture.
A Polish shtetl, early 20th century: a Jewish man, Velvel (Allen Lewis Rickman), tells his wife, Dora (Yelena Shmuelenson) that he had been helped on his way home by Reb Groshkover (Fyvush Finkel), whom he has invited in for soup. Dora objects that Groshkover is dead, and that this visitor must be a "dybbuk." When he arrives, Groshkover laughs off the accusation, but Dora plunges an icepick into his chest. Bleeding, he goes back out into the snowy night.
Minnesota, 1967: Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) is a Jewish professor of physics. His wife, Judith (Sari Lennick), informs him that she needs a get (a Jewish divorce document), so she can marry widower Sy Ableman (Fred Melamed).
Three other people live under their roof. Son Danny (Aaron Wolff) owes twenty dollars for marijuana to an intimidating Hebrew school classmate, but the bill is hidden in a transistor radio since confiscated by his teacher. Their daughter is always doing her hair. Larry's brother, Arthur (Richard Kind), sleeps on the couch and spends his free time filling a notebook with an extravagant theory that will, he claims, tie together all natural laws.
Larry faces an impending vote on his application for tenure and his department head lets slip that anonymous letters have urged the committee to deny him. A Korean student, about to flunk Larry's class and lose his scholarship, plants in Larry's office an envelope stuffed with cash. When Larry attempts to return it, student and father bridle at the suggestion of bribery. But they threaten to sue for defamation if he doesn't give a passing grade.
At the insistence of Judith and Sy, Larry and Arthur move into a nearby motel, the “Jolly Roger”. Judith has emptied the couple's accounts, leaving Larry penniless, so he enlists the services of a sympathetic divorce attorney (Adam Arkin). Arthur is arrested for solicitation.
To cope with his streak of bad luck, Larry turns to the faith. The two rabbis he consults are either obtuse, oblivious or obscure. The senior rabbi is never available. Larry's spiritual crisis reaches a breaking point when he and Sy are involved in seemingly simultaneous car crashes miles apart. Larry is unharmed, but Sy is killed. At Judith's insistence, Larry pays for Sy's funeral.
On the day of Danny's bar mitzvah, he struggles through the ceremony despite a bad case of nerves and marijuana intoxication. Larry appears proud and moved by what he sees. Judith apologizes to Larry for all the recent trouble, and informs him that Sy liked him so much that he even wrote letters to Larry's tenure committee. Following his bar mitzvah Danny is led into the senior rabbi's office. The rabbi retrieves Danny's radio from a desk drawer and slides it over to him, counseling Danny to "be a good boy."
Larry's department head compliments Larry on Danny's bar mitzvah and hints that he will win tenure. Upon receiving the bill for Arthur's criminal lawyer he decides to pass Clive. His doctor calls, asking to see him immediately to talk about the results of a chest X-ray. At the same time, Danny's teacher struggles to open the school's shelter door as a massive tornado bears down on them.