One of my biggest pet peeves for a movie is a predictable ending. It is a major turn off and almost always leaves me feeling aggravated. A Serious Man takes a completely opposite route and leaves viewers guessing even past the end credits.
One gets a feel for the general attitude of the movie with the opening seen showing a Jewish couple preparing for dinner. The husband states that he has recently seen a man that the wife claims to be dead. After the wife stabs the supposed ghost, the husband cries that they are forever cursed.
Whether this opening relates at all to the rest of the story is up to the viewer; however, the main character’s, Larry Gopnik’s (Michael Stuhlbarg), constant run-ins with bad luck bears an uncanny resemblance to the curse mentioned in the very beginning.
The rest of the movie follows Larry Gopnik while he receives countless pieces of bad news. His wife, Judith Gopnik (Sari Lennick), and kids, Danny (Aaron Wolff) and Sarah Gopnik (Jessica McManus), along with his job serve as the sources of most of his issues. As he encounters more life issues, Larry continuously attempts to talk to Rabbi Marshak.
Larry’s encounters with various rabbis are gut wrenchingly funny but oddly realistic. One rabbi’s connection between life and a parking lot will give anyone a good laugh. In most cases, the movie does not include many laugh-out-loud moments like the rabbi scenes, but the humor is certainly evident.
The music is a fantastic addition to the film as well. Unobtrusive yet effective, the score by Carter Burwell gives the movie that strange eerie feeling of uncertainty. The creepy, horror-like music continues to play during seemingly everyday scenes such as when Larry simply observes his front yard. While this kind of nonconformity between imagery and soundtrack would usually be unsettling, in this case it works perfectly and even gives the audience a chuckle.
Going back to my initial statement of how the last thing a movie should be is predictable; the ending of A Serious Man eliminates all predetermined outcomes of the viewer. It’s partially why the movie works so well. Some writers and directors cannot pull that off: the whole, seemingly incongruous plot with the whacky ending thing. But in A Serious Man, the plot makes just enough sense to keep the audience engaged and keep them thinking long after an initial viewing. The picture continues to improve as one goes back to contemplate it.
Of course, the film isn’t for everyone. It can be taken as quite offensive and thus you should avoid it if easily upset by common stereotypes. But if there is a chance you might get past it, A Serious Man is worth any rental fee.
The film is quite frankly a work of art. It cannot truly be explained to its full potential and therefore it is a must see for anyone with a very broad sense of humor.