Monday, March 15, 2010


Directed by Joel & Ethan Coen, Starring Michael Stuhlbarg, Fred Melamed & Richard Kind

"Receive with simplicity everything that happens to you" - Rashi

When your wife is requesting a divorce, your brother will not get off your couch and get a job and one of your students is simultaneously bribing and blackmailing you, that's easier said than done!  But such is the life of Larry Gobnik (Stuhlbarg), standing in awe at the turmoil that surrounds him with no end in sight.

It is almost moot to reference the films obvious link to the Book of Job, but there it is.  Larry is tested and tested again.  To what end?  That is for Hashem to know and for you to find out.  Or not, as appears to be the case here.  It is really all about the question, isn't it?  Larry stumbles from rabbi to rabbi seeking an absolute, only to be met with more questions and confusion.  Rabbi #1 tells him that it is all about perception, citing the shul parking lot as an example (insert film quote).  Rabbi #2 tells him the tale of a dentist who discovers the words "help me, save me" in yiddish on the back of a goy's teeth.  When Larry asks what happened to the goy at the end of the story, the rabbi's response is at once frustrating and completely reasonable.  And what of Rabbi #3, you ask?  You will have to see where that ends up for yourself.

The Coen brothers have a reputation for being almost frustratingly vague and, "A Serious Man" is no exception.  It is the nature of the beast.  The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away.  In the bible, Job professes his innocence and faith even in the face of great torment and detractors.  Larry merely whines a lot.  And there is also the matter of the ending, which most people will find to be abrupt and unsatisfactory.  Those familiar with the story's origins will probably see it coming. 


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