For people unfamiliar with the Hebrew Bible Book Of Job, like yours truly, A Serious Man might be a quirky little movie, a black comedy full of dramatic elements. The serious man in this case is Mathematics professor Larry Gopnik and his life is about to derail step by step. First his wife wants a divorce and already has a new boyfriend in the form of Sy Ableman. Despite stealing Larry’s wife Sy is extremely friendly to Larry who doesn’t know how to handle a guy that is steals your wife but seems to be the nicest man on Earth to you and practically convinces you this is the best thing. His kids have no eye for him, a student simultaneously tries to bribe and blackmail him for a grade and his milf neighbor might or might not take a liking in poor Larry.
The movie is a basic retelling of the Book of Job set in the 60’s. But that came to me after watching this movie strolling around commentaries about the movie. I’m not quite sure how large the audience is that actually read the original material which is required to get all the references. For the crowd that isn’t familiar with the material or the Jewish religion the movie is both engaging and confusing at the same time. We connect with Larry, we can’t help but laugh at the character of Sy in his life, the weird brother that sleeps on the couch and as the movie progresses keeps getting in more and more trouble. With his wife leaving him he deserves some intimate time with his sexy neighbor. Here’s a swell guy who doesn’t seem to get a break. It’s sad and funny at the same time.
But the movie is also confusing. Since the central characters are Jewish and the movie is full of religious undertones there are a lot of Jewish slang in the movie. While it’s not impossible to understand some dialogue could use subtitles in basic English for the people unfamiliar with all the Hebrew terms used. This one of those movies that will make you go on the web in search for some explanations, especially the ending, which seems to come out of nowhere but is makes perfect sense when reading an explanation. One of the reasons the ending probably apparently becomes too soon is because I kind of expected a turnaround for Larry. In the movie Larry is searching for answers, which he doesn’t receive, so we don’t receive them either.
I liked the movie on a whole even if it is rather confusing. The story of Larry is fun and sad at the same time. We laugh at it him, even though we shouldn’t. There is a whole subtext to the movie channeling the Book Of Job but even without it the movie is rather entertaining although more appealing to the art house audience than the multiplex crowd.