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"A SERIOUS MAN"
(2009) (Michael Stuhlbarg, Aaron Wolff) (R)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Heavy Mild Heavy Mild Moderate
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Heavy Mild Minor None Extreme
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Extreme Mild Heavy Heavy Heavy


QUICK TAKE:
Dramedy: A Jewish professor tries to figure out why God appears to be picking on him via various annoyances and bigger issues.
PLOT:
It's 1967 and Larry Gopnik (MICHAEL STUHLBARG) is a Jewish professor of physics living in the suburbs of Minneapolis/St. Paul who's looking forward to receiving his tenure. While there are annoyances in his day-to-day experience -- ranging from his teenage daughter Sarah (JESSICA McMANUS) constantly complaining about Uncle Arthur (RICHARD KIND) and his perpetual need to drain his neck cyst getting in the way of her washing her hair; younger son Danny (AARON WOLFF) complaining about bad reception for his favorite TV show; or having neighbors ranging from the unfriendly Mr. Brandt (PETER BREITMAYER) who mows across the property line to Mrs. Samsky (AMY LANDECKER) who sunbathes in the nude -- Larry has a good life. Or at least he thinks his does.

His boss at work informs him that there have been some letters arguing against his tenure, while one of his students, Clive Park (DAVID KANG), is trying to bribe him for a passing grade. He doesn't seem to realize that Danny spends all of his money on pot and constantly has to avoid Mike Fagle (JON KAMINSKI JR.), a much larger neighbor and classmate who wants money from the 13-year-old, who isn't thrilled about having to practice for his pending bar mitzvah.

Things get worse, however, when Larry's wife, Judith (SARI LENNICK), informs him that she's fallen in love with their friend, Sy Abelman (FRED MELAMED), and wants a divorce, but not before she makes him move out and into a nearby motel. While seeking legal advice from a divorce lawyer (ADAM ARKIN), Larry wonders why God seems to be punishing him, resulting in a number of visits to various rabbis.

As he must contend with the disappointments piling up all around him, Larry hopes to find a reason or at least some sort of meaning to his world being upended.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
If they're fans of films by Joel and Ethan Coen, they might be interested, but this one doesn't appear to have the broad appeal of some of their other work.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: R
For language, some sexuality/nudity and brief violence.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • MICHAEL STUHLBARG plays a humble Jewish professor of physics who thinks he has a decent life despite various annoyances, but then has that fall apart all around him. While dealing with Judith wanting a divorce, along with other matters, he tries to find an answer about why God is challenging and/or punishing him. He briefly smokes pot with Mrs. Samsky.
  • SARI LENNICK plays his annoyed wife who's suddenly decided she wants to be with Sy and thus informs Larry that they're getting divorced, preceded by forcing him to sleep on a cot and then move into a local motel.
  • AARON WOLFF plays their 13-year-old son who isn't particularly thrilled about his pending bar mitzvah or that he constantly has to elude Fagle over some money. He smokes a lot of pot, uses strong profanity, and often complains to his dad about poor TV reception of his favorite show.
  • JESSICA McMANUS plays his older teenage sister who's only concerned about washing her hair and the fact that Uncle Arthur is always hogging the bathroom. She doesn't like Danny and curses at him, while also occasionally whacking him on the head.
  • RICHARD KIND plays Larry's brother who lives with them and is always draining a neck cyst when not formulating some sort of gambling theorem. He's later wanted for illegal gambling and then arrested for solicitation and sodomy, but none of those acts are seen. He uses profanity.
  • FRED MELAMED plays Larry and Judith's widowed friend who's become the latter's boyfriend, thus prompting her to want a divorce. He's overly nice to Larry in trying to keep everything civil between all of them.
  • DAVID KANG plays a South Korean student who tries to bribe Larry for a passing grade and isn't pleased when the professor refuses.
  • PETER BREITMAYER plays Larry's mean neighbor who doesn't like him and repeatedly pushes the figurative and literal boundaries of their property lines.
  • AMY LANDECKER another neighbor who sunbathes in the nude and smokes pot.
  • ADAM ARKIN plays a divorce lawyer who takes on Larry as a client.
  • JON KAMINSKI JR. plays a neighbor kid and fellow classmate of Danny's who always chasing after him for money owed to him.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    Curious if this title is entertaining, any good, and/or has any artistic merit?
    Then read OUR TAKE of this film.


    (Note: The "Our Take" review of this title examines the film's artistic merits and does not take into account any of the possibly objectionable material listed below).


    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    Here's a quick look at the content found in this R-rated dramedy. Profanity consists of at least 19 "f" words, while other expletives and colorful phrases are also uttered. Sexually related dialogue is present as is a partially seen and imagined sexual encounter, while a woman is seen sunbathing while fully nude.

    Imagined violence includes a fatal shooting and person roughing up another, while the real stuff includes a woman stabbing a man she believes is a zombie-like figure. There's some whacking of others and a character is killed in an unseen car accident. Some bloody results are present, and it's possible some of those scenes and a few others might be unsettling for some viewers (especially if sensitive to the particular subject matter as it occurs), but most are played for dark comedy.

    Bad attitudes are present, there's brief smoking, and various characters smoke pot. All sorts of tense family material is present, as are some thematic elements as well as behavior that some kids might want to imitate (including that pot smoking).

    Should you still be concerned about the film's appropriateness for yourself or anyone else in your home, you may want to look more closely at our detailed listings for more specific information regarding the film's content.

    For those concerned with bright flashes of light on the screen, there's some flicker from a fire during the film's prologue.


    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • Danny admits to buying a "lid" (of marijuana) from another student, and there's another comment about pot.
  • Sy brings a bottle of wine over and gives it to Larry, informing him how to open it properly, etc.
  • Danny shares a joint with his friend.
  • Danny and his friend smoke pot.
  • Mrs. Samsky lights up a joint and shares that with Larry, and both are stoned from that.
  • We see that Danny and his friend are smoking pot in a bathroom stall, followed by Danny being quite stoned as he goes through his bar mitzvah.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • In the film's prologue set sometime in the 1800s, a woman stabs a man in the chest with an ice pick (we don't see the impact), believing him to be a dybbuk. After a few moments, blood starts soaking through his shirt around the pick that's still sticking out of him, he comments on not feeling well, and then gets up and stumbles outside (we don't know his fate or his true status).
  • We hear that Uncle Arthur is draining the cyst on his neck, but we don't see it or any related fluid in any of those related scenes.
  • Mr. Brandt and his son leave while carrying rifles in cases, and when they return, there's a dead deer on the top of their car (with a little blood on it, as well as what appears to be some on Brandt's shirt).
  • Danny watches an old, black and white sci-fi film where a scene shows a brain in a container of some sort.
  • Uncle Arthur takes off in a rowboat across a lake, only to be shot suddenly in the back of the neck (with slightly bloody results, in what turns out to be a nightmare).
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • In the film's prologue set sometime in the 1800s, a woman stabs a man in the chest with an ice pick (if she's right, she's saved herself and her husband from harm - if she's wrong, she may have mortally wounded an innocent man).
  • Danny listens to his transistor radio through an earpiece in class.
  • Some viewers might not like a stick figure illustration that's part of Larry's physics equation on the blackboard that shows a panel with one live cat and another with a dead cat that's been struck by a hammer.
  • Clive tries to bribe Larry for a passing grade, and then delivers something of a veiled threat about not accepting it.
  • Mr. Brandt has purposefully mowed over the property line into Larry's yard and gives him a mean look when Larry examines that.
  • Sarah doesn't like her younger brother and doesn't hide that fact, cursing at him and occasionally whacking him on the head.
  • Danny and his friend pick the lock on their teacher's desk, hoping to retrieve a confiscated transistor radio.
  • Mr. Brandt has his son out of school to go hunting.
  • Larry learns that Mr. Brandt is preparing to build a shed right up to their property line, thus breaking the zoning law.
  • Clive's father threatens to sue Larry if he doesn't accept his son's bribe.
  • Larry learns that Danny joined a record club without telling him or arranging for payment of the records.
  • Some cops arrive and state they're after Uncle Arthur for illegal gambling.
  • The police inform Larry that they arrested his brother for solicitation and sodomy, with Danny asking what the latter is.
  • Uncle Arthur takes off in a rowboat across a lake, only to be shot suddenly in the back of the neck (with slightly bloody results), and Larry then spots Brandt and his son with rifles and the father tells the son, "It's another Jew!" The kid then aims and fires, followed by Larry waking up from his nightmare.
  • Considering all that's occurred to him, Larry decides to change Clive's grade from an F to a C-.
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • In the film's prologue set sometime in the 1800s, a man returns home to inform his wife that he was lucky to have received help from a certain man. That news concerns her, as she knows that man died three years earlier. That's followed by a knock on the door, and an uneasy opening of that to let the old man in. More angry than frightened, the wife confronts that man, accusing him of being a dybbuk, a charge he denies with some amusement. She knows she's right and thus drives an ice pick into his chest (we don't see the impact), seemingly amusing him even more. For a moment, it appears she was right, but we then see blood start soaking through his shirt around the pick that's still sticking out of him, he comments on not feeling well, and then gets up and stumbles outside (we don't know his fate or his true status).
  • Fagle chases after Danny when the latter walks through the neighborhood (played for comedy rather than suspense, and that's a running gag through the film).
  • An old lawyer suddenly keels over from an apparent heart attack (played for laughs on the part of the film).
  • Uncle Arthur takes off in a rowboat across a lake, only to be shot suddenly in the back of the neck (with slightly bloody results), and Larry then spots Brandt and his son with rifles and the father tells the son, "It's another Jew!" The kid then aims and fires, followed by Larry waking up from his nightmare.
  • Larry gets news that he should see his doctor immediately regarding some test results, but we don't know any specifics.
  • A teacher informs his students that there's a tornado warning and that they're being moved to the basement. As that teacher tries to unlock the door while everyone is outside, we see the tornado forming and then approaching from the distance, but the scene ends there.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • Mr. Brandt and his son leave while carrying rifles in cases, and when they return, there's a dead deer on the top of their car (with a little blood on it, as well as what appears to be some on Brandt's shirt).
  • Danny watches an old, black and white sci-fi film where a scene shows some characters holding laser guns.
  • Uncle Arthur takes off in a rowboat across a lake, only to be shot suddenly in the back of the neck (with slightly bloody results), while we see Brandt on the bank with his son, both armed with rifles, and the kids fires another shot (in what turns out to be a nightmare).
  • We see a classic painting showing a man holding down a boy with a knife to him.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "He's a f*cker," "You little brat f*cker," "Give me that, f*cker," "It's all (f*cking) sh*t," "You little sh*t," "Dybbuk," "He's gonna kick his ass" and "You little bastard."
  • Danny listens to his transistor radio through an earpiece in class.
  • Clive tries to bribe Larry for a passing grade, and then delivers something of a veiled threat about not accepting it.
  • Danny gives "the finger" to his sister after she's mean to him.
  • Danny and his friend pick the lock on their teacher's desk, hoping to retrieve a confiscated transistor radio.
  • While up on the roof to check the TV antenna, Larry happens to see Mrs. Samsky sunbathing in the nude in her fenced yard. We see her bare breasts, but with one leg bent and against the other, no view of her crotch is visible.
  • Judith and her kids all loudly slurp soup.
  • We see that Danny and his friend are smoking pot in a bathroom stall, followed by Danny being quite stoned as he goes through his bar mitzvah.
  • JUMP SCENES
  • Uncle Arthur takes off in a rowboat across a lake, only to be shot suddenly in the back of the neck (in what turns out to be a nightmare).
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • A little bit of suspenseful music plays in the film.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • At least 19 "f" words (2 used sexually), 7 "s" words, 2 slang terms for sex ("whoopsy doopsy" and "hanky panky"), 4 asses (3 used with "hole"), 3 craps, 2 uses each of "Jesus Christ" and "Oh my God" and 1 use of "Jesus."
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • We see Larry in his boxers while undergoing some medical tests.
  • Judith informs Larry that she wants a divorce as she's now involved with Sy. She states that it's not a casual fling and isn't about "whoopsy-doopsy" (sex).
  • While up on the roof to check the TV antenna, Larry happens to see Mrs. Samsky sunbathing in the nude in her fenced yard. We see her bare breasts, but with one leg bent and against the other, no view of her crotch is visible.
  • We see shirtless men (including Uncle Arthur) at a lake where women are in period appropriate (1960s) swimwear (nothing explicit).
  • Meeting with a divorce lawyer, Larry tells the man (about Judith and Sy) that there hasn't been any "hanky panky" to his knowledge.
  • We see a partial view of Uncle Arthur in his underwear in bed.
  • Larry has a nightmare where Sy informs him (about Judith), "I f*cked your wife. I seriously f*cked her."
  • After Larry informs Mrs. Samsky that he's getting divorced, she somewhat suggestively asks if he takes advantage of his new freedoms.
  • The police inform Larry that they arrested his brother for solicitation and sodomy, with Danny asking what the latter is.
  • Larry admits attending something called a Swedish Reverie and states it's not even erotic, but then admits that it sort of was that.
  • We see Mrs. Samsky having sex on top of Larry (in her bra, while smoking), with some movement, but this turns out to be a dream for Larry.
  • Larry runs after his distraught brother from their motel room at night to console him (both in t-shirts and boxers).
  • SMOKING
  • Mrs. Samsky smokes a few times, while some miscellaneous people also smoke (one with a pipe).
  • A doctor lights up a cigarette and then offers one to Larry who declines.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • Sara isn't happy her uncle is always hogging the bathroom, draining his neck cyst.
  • Judith informs Larry that she wants a divorce as she's now involved with Sy. She states that it's not a casual fling and isn't about "whoopsy-doopsy" (sex).
  • We hear that Sy is has been a widower for three years.
  • Sarah doesn't like her younger brother and doesn't hide that fact, cursing at him and occasionally whacking him on the head.
  • Larry finds his brother's notebook that's filled with what appear to be gobbledygook and codes, etc. possibly indicating (in Larry's mind) mental illness.
  • Judith always appears to be mad, irritated at and/or annoyed by Larry, and we then see that he's been relegated to sleeping on a cot. Later, she informs him he should move out, and thus he starts staying in a nearby motel.
  • Meeting with a divorce lawyer, Larry tells the man (about Judith and Sy) that there hasn't been any "hanky panky" to his knowledge. Other scenes involve the lawyer, and Larry racks up a large bill.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • How people look at adversity and challenges through the lens of their religion.
  • Divorce.
  • A woman comments that as Jews, they have tradition to fall back on when things don't make sense.
  • Larry ponders why God poses questions if there will be no answers to them.
  • Drug use.
  • Larry stating that he's not an evil man (in wondering why God appears to be punishing him).
  • VIOLENCE
  • In the film's prologue set sometime in the 1800s, a woman stabs a man in the chest with an ice pick (we don't see the impact), believing him to be a dybbuk. After a few moments, blood starts soaking through his shirt around the pick that's still sticking out of him, he comments on not feeling well, and then gets up and stumbles outside (we don't know his fate or his true status).
  • Sarah whacks Danny on the back of the head.
  • Sarah kicks Danny under the table.
  • While distracted, Larry accidentally drives into the back of a stopped car, while another car drives into the back of his (no one is hurt).
  • We hear that a man was killed in a different and unseen car accident.
  • Sarah whacks Danny on the back of the head.
  • Larry has a nightmare where Sy repeatedly bangs him back against a wall.
  • Uncle Arthur takes off in a rowboat across a lake, only to be shot suddenly in the back of the neck (with slightly bloody results, in what turns out to be a nightmare).



  • Reviewed October 6, 2009 / Posted October 9, 2009

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