To me the effective horror movies are ones where bad things are happening to relatively good people. What’s creepier than a seemingly unstoppable larger-than-life force that is out to get you? In the case of A Serious Man, that force is God or just terrible luck. Much like the biblical Job, Larry Gopnik is having everything that could go wrong occur in a very short amount of time. On every front he is hit: from a marital, financial, professional and religious standpoint. This predicament is scarier than any Michael Myers or Vince Vaughn for this is something completely intangible.
Throughout all of this, Larry keeps insisting to anyone who would listen that he hasn’t done anything wrong. Yet he hasn’t really done anything great as well. Is doing nothing wrong, something wrong? This is one of many paradoxes examined in the film. No easy solutions are given no matter how desperately the characters want them. Larry and his family are devout members of the Jewish community during the 1960s so everyone around him keeps telling him to turn to the rabbis for advice. However all he receives are empty parables and a prescription to continue to have faith in God.
From that description, I seem to be accidently inferring that the Coens are saying that religion is unsatisfying. I do not believe that for the simple reason of I don’t know yet. This is my first review for this site where I am not 100% certain on my interpretations of the directors’ intentions. I apologize for having only seen this film once. This is not an act of mental laziness on my part because so much of the film is up to interpretation. Interpretations that I feel will change as time goes by for me, much like theories about real life.
Do not take my indecisions as a strike against the film (or hopefully not me). A Serious Man is a film I call “intellectually arousing.” I never want a film to be disposable. You can determine a film’s impact by how long you think about it afterwards. This is a film that academically satisfies its viewers, but on a surface level it is flawlessly entertaining. This is the genius of the Coen Brothers. Thanks the Roger Deakins the shots are always astounding and the actors, especially Michael Stuhlbarg as Larry, know how to sell the comedy and tragedy of the situation. This is exactly the kind of film I latch onto and adore. So check it out as, at the very least, an unconventional Halloween viewing.