Serious Man (DVD)

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Serious Man (DVD)

A Serious Man is a 2009 black comedy-drama film written, produced, edited and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. Set in 1967, the film stars Michael Stuhlbarg as a Minnesota Jewish man whose life crumbles both professionally and personally, leading him to questions about his faith.

A Serious Man received widespread positive critical response, including a place on both the American Film Institute s and National Board of Review of Motion Pictures s Top 10 Film Lists of 2009. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, and Stuhlbarg was nominated for a Golden Globe Award.


A Jewish man in a 19th-century Eastern European shtetl tells his wife that he was helped on his way home by Reb Groshkover, whom he has invited in for soup. She says Groshkover is dead and the man he invited must be a dybbuk. Groshkover arrives and laughs off the accusation, but she plunges an ice pick into his chest. Bleeding, he exits their home into the snowy night.

In 1967, Larry Gopnik is a professor of physics living in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. His wife, Judith, tells him that she needs a get so she can marry widower Sy Ableman, with whom she has fallen in love. Meanwhile, their son Danny owes twenty dollars to an intimidating Hebrew school classmate for marijuana. He has the money, but it is hidden in a transistor radio that was confiscated by his teacher. Their daughter, Sarah, is always washing her hair, going out and avoiding school. Larry s brother, Arthur, is homeless and sleeps on the couch, spending his free time filling a notebook with what he calls a probability map of the universe or a mentaculus .

Clive Park, a South Korean student worried about losing his scholarship, meets with Larry in his office to argue he should not fail the class. After he leaves, Larry finds an envelope stuffed with cash. When Larry attempts to return it, Clive s father threatens to sue Larry either for defamation if Larry accuses Clive of bribery, or for keeping the money if he does not give him a passing grade. Larry faces an impending vote on his application for tenure, and his department head informs him that anonymous letters have urged the committee to deny him.

At the insistence of Judith and Sy, Larry and Arthur move into a nearby motel. Judith empties the couple s bank accounts, leaving Larry penniless, so he enlists the services of a divorce attorney. Larry learns that Arthur faces charges of solicitation and sodomy.

Larry turns to his Jewish faith for consolation. He consults a junior rabbi, who advises Larry to change his perspective . Larry and Sy are involved in separate, simultaneous car crashes. Larry is unharmed, but Sy dies. Larry consults a second rabbi for solace, who recounts a parable about a dentist who finds Hebrew inscriptions on a patient s teeth. Larry also tries to contact Marshak, the synagogue s senior rabbi, who isn t available. At Judith s insistence, Larry pays for Sy s funeral. At the funeral, Sy is eulogized as a serious man .

Larry calls on his neighbor, Vivienne Samsky, whom he has seen sunbathing naked. She introduces him to marijuana. He later dreams that he is having sex with her, but this turns into a nightmare.

Arthur is despondent about the charges levied at him, and Larry consoles him. Larry then has another nightmare in which he gives Arthur the money Clive left him and drives him to cross into Canada by boat, whereupon his neighbors shoot Arthur in the neck. Larry is proud and moved by Danny s Bar Mitzvah, unaware that his son is under the influence of marijuana. During the service, Judith apologizes to Larry for all the recent trouble and informs him that Sy respected him so much that he even wrote letters to the tenure committee. Danny meets with Marshak, a brief encounter in which Marshak only quotes Jefferson Airplane s Somebody to Love , names some members of the band, returns the radio, and tells Danny to be a good boy .

Larry s department head compliments him on Danny s Bar Mitzvah and hints that he will receive tenure. The mail brings a $3,000 bill from Arthur s lawyer. Larry decides to change Clive s grade from F to C−, whereupon Larry s doctor calls, asking to see him immediately about the results of a chest X-ray. Meanwhile, Danny s teacher struggles to open the emergency shelter as a massive tornado closes in on the school.


  • Michael Stuhlbarg as Lawrence Larry Gopnik
  • Richard Kind as Arthur Gopnik
  • Fred Melamed as Sy Ableman
  • Sari Lennick as Judith Gopnik
  • Aaron Wolff as Danny Gopnik
  • Jessica McManus as Sarah Gopnik
  • Alan Mandell as Rabbi Marshak
  • Adam Arkin as Don Milgram
  • George Wyner as Rabbi Nachtner
  • Amy Landecker as Mrs. Vivienne Samsky
  • Peter Breitmayer as Mr. Brandt
  • Brent Braunschweig as Mitch Brandt
  • Katherine Borowitz as Mimi Nudell
  • Allen Lewis Rickman as Velvel
  • Yelena Shmulenson as Dora
  • Fyvush Finkel as Traitl Groshkover
  • Simon Helberg as Rabbi Scott Ginsler
  • Raye Birk as Dr. Shapiro
  • Michael Lerner as Solomon Schlutz
  • David Kang as Clive
  • Steve Park as Clive s father
  • Ari Hoptman as Arlen Finkle
  • Amanda Day as Art Student
  • Landyn Banx as Actor


Considerable attention was paid to the setting; it was important to the Coens to find a neighborhood of original-looking suburban rambler homes as they would have appeared in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, in the late 1960s. Locations were scouted in nearby Edina, Richfield, Brooklyn Center, and Hopkins before a suitable location was found in Bloomington. The film s look is partly based on the Brad Zellar book Suburban World: The Norling Photographs, a collection of photographs of Bloomington in the 1950s and 60s.

Location filming began on September 8, 2008, in Minnesota. An office scene was shot at Normandale Community College in Bloomington. The film also used a set built in the school s library, as well as small sections of the second floor science building hallway. The synagogue is the B nai Emet Synagogue in St. Louis Park. The Coens also shot some scenes in St. Olaf College s old science building because of its similar period architecture. Scenes were also shot at the Minneapolis legal offices of Meshbesher & Spence, the name of whose founder and president, Ronald I. Meshbesher, is mentioned as the criminal lawyer recommended to Larry in the film. Filming wrapped on November 6, 2008, after 44 days, ahead of schedule and within budget.

Longtime collaborator Roger Deakins rejoined the Coens as cinematographer, following his absence from Burn After Reading. This was his tenth film with them. Costume designer Mary Zophres returned for her ninth collaboration with the directors.

The Coens themselves stated that the germ of the story was a rabbi from their adolescence: a mysterious figure who had a private conversation with each student at the conclusion of their religious education. Ethan Coen said that it seemed appropriate to open the film with a Yiddish folk tale, but as the brothers did not know any suitable ones, they wrote their own.

Open auditions for the roles of Danny and Sarah were held on May 4, 2008, at the Sabes Jewish Community Center in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, one of the scheduled shooting locations. Open auditions for the role of Sarah were also held in June 2008 in Chicago, Illinois.

Patton Oswalt and Marc Maron auditioned for the roles of Arthur Gopnik and Larry Gopnik.


All of the film s original music is by Carter Burwell, who also worked on every previous Coen brothers film except O Brother, Where Art Thou? The film also contains pieces of Yiddish music including Dem Milner s Trern by Mark Warshawsky and performed by Sidor Belarsky, which deals with the abuse and recurring evictions of Jews from Shtetlekh.

The soundtrack also includes the following songs by popular 1960s artists:

1. Somebody to Love Jefferson Airplane2:58
2. Today Jefferson Airplane3:02
3. Comin Back to Me Jefferson Airplane5:16
4. 3/5 of a Mile in 10 Seconds Jefferson Airplane3:40
5. Machine Gun Jimi Hendrix12:36


The film began a limited release in the United States on October 2, 2009. It premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 12, 2009.

Box office

FilmRelease dateBox office revenueBox office rankingBudgetReference
United StatesUnited StatesInternationalWorldwideAll time United StatesAll time worldwide
A Serious ManOctober 2, 2009$9,228,768$22,201,566$31,430,334#3,818Unknown$7,000,000

A Serious Man grossed $9,228,768 domestically, and $22,201,566 internationally, making for a worldwide gross of $31,430,334.

Critical response

A Serious Man received mostly positive reviews from critics, and holds a 89% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 227 reviews, with an average rating of 7.94/10. The site s critical consensus reads, Blending dark humor with profoundly personal themes, the Coen brothers deliver what might be their most mature—if not their best—film to date. The film also holds a score of 82 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on 38 critics, indicating Universal acclaim .

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times rated the film four out of four stars. His review highlighted the film s Yiddish folktale prologue, suggesting that though the Coens maintain it has no relation to the rest of the film, maybe because an ancestor invited a dybbuk (wandering soul) to cross his threshold, Larry is cursed. In an essay in Jung Journal: Culture and Psyche, Steve Zemmelman considers that the prologue may link to the Jefferson Airplane soundtrack motif, reflecting Larry s normal sense of order becoming increasingly disrupted. He writes, what can happen when the wheel falls off the cart , as Velvel says happened to him on the road that night, or when the truth is found to be lies , that lyric from Somebody to Love that serves as bookends for this film.

Claudia Puig of USA Today wrote, A Serious Man is a wonderfully odd, bleakly comic and thoroughly engrossing film. Underlying the grim humor are serious questions about faith, family, mortality and misfortune. Time magazine critic Richard Corliss called it disquieting and haunting .

Some critics commented on the link between the film and the Biblical Book of Job. K. L. Evans wrote, we identify it as a Job story because its central character is tormented by his failure to account for the miseries that befall him . In his essay Job of Suburbia? , David Tollerton wrote, the more substantial connection between A Serious Man and the Book of Job—the connection that reaches deeper—is their similarly absurd presentations of the human struggle with anguish and the divine. Slate magazine critic Juliet Lapidos considered that the folktale prologue may be an endorsement of the gumption of taking matters into her own hands .

The Wall Street Journal s Joe Morgenstern disliked what he saw as the film s misanthropy, saying that their caricatures range from dislikable through despicable, with not a smidgeon of humanity to redeem them. David Denby of The New Yorker enjoyed the film s look and feel, but found fault with the script and characterization: A Serious Man, like Burn After Reading, is in their bleak, black, belittling mode, and it s hell to sit through ... As a piece of movie-making craft, A Serious Man is fascinating; in every other way, it s intolerable. Zemmelman wrote that this kind of viewer response results from the film s lack of narrative resolution: The film is perplexing and the dialogue reminds the viewer repeatedly that we are in an encounter with the ever-conflictual and the infinitely mysterious.

Todd McCarthy said, A Serious Man is the kind of picture you get to make after you ve won an Oscar. Awarding the film five stars in The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw said, this strange and wonderful film is rounded off with a gloriously well-crafted apocalyptic vision and a chilling intimation of divine retribution for earthly wrongdoing. The Coens have finished the noughties as America s preeminent filmmakers .

A Serious Man was later voted the 82nd greatest film since 2000 in a BBC international critics poll.


A Serious Man received numerous awards and nominations, mostly within for Best Picture, Screenplay, Cast, and Cinematography. Joel and Ethan Coen were awarded Best Original Screenplay at the 2009 National Board of Review Awards and the 2010 National Society of Film Critics Awards. The screenplay was also nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the 2010 Academy Awards. Other nominations for Best Original Screenplay include acknowledgment from the Writers Guild of America Awards, BAFTA, the Broadcast Film Critics Association s 15th Annual Critic s Choice Awards and the 2010 Boston Society of Film Critics.

The film was also nominated for Best Picture at the 82nd Academy Awards; BBC News called it one of the less talked about nominees . Other nominations for Best Picture include the Broadcast Film Critics Association s 15th Annual Critics Choice Awards, Boston Society of Film Critics and the Chicago Film Critics Association. The National Board of Review of Motion Pictures, the American Film Institute, the Satellite Awards, and the Southeastern Film Critics Association Awards all listed the film as one of the ten best of 2009.

Stuhlbarg was awarded the Chaplin Virtuoso Award at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and nominated for Best Actor at the 2010 Golden Globe Awards. Stuhlbarg, Kind, Melamed and Lennick were nominated for a Gotham Award for Best Performance by an Ensemble Cast. Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, casting directors Ellen Chenoweth and Rachel Tenner, and actors Kind, Lennick, Melamed, Stuhlbarg, Wolff and McManus were awarded the 2010 Robert Altman Award by Film Independent for Excellence in Collaborative Cinematic Achievement by Directors, Casting Directors alongside an Ensemble Cast and Best Cinematography at the 2010 Independent Spirit Awards.

Roger Deakins received the Best Cinematography awards at both the 2009 Hollywood Awards and the 2009 San Francisco Film Critics Circle Awards, along with the Nikola Tesla Award at the 2009 14th Satellite Awards.





Age group Rating MPA

Not Rated

Recording Studio




Amazon ASIN











1h 46min


Nominated for 2 Oscars, 17 wins & 80 nominations total


Ethan Coen, Joel Coen


Joel Coen, Ethan Coen


Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Kind, Sari Lennick

Produced by

Tim Bevan, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Eric Fellner, Robert Graf

Music by

Carter Burwell

Cinematography by

Roger Deakins

Film Editing by

Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

Casting By

Ellen Chenoweth, Rachel Tenner

Production Design by

Jess Gonchor

Art Direction by

Deborah Jensen

Set Decoration by

Nancy Haigh

Costume Design by

Mary Zophres

Makeup Department

Fríða Aradóttir, Jean Ann Black, Mary Flaa, Deanna Johnson, Carrie Messina, Christien Tinsley, Maureen Landa, Cara Sophia Tollefson, Brenda Torre

Production Management

Jane Nerlinger Evans, Catherine Farrell, Karen Ruth Getchell, Robert Graf, Michelle Wright

Second Unit Director or Assistant Director

Bac DeLorme, Kevin Flatow, Betsy Magruder, Terrence B. Zinn, Dave Halls

Art Department

J. Todd Anderson, Steve Anderson, Maria L. Baker, Benjamin Bayne, Jill Broadfoot, John C. Cameron, John Alan Champion, Mark Edmo, Matt Erkel, Faith Farrell, Windy Fleischaker, David Franicola, Garrett Fulton, Bradley G. Grasser, Wayne Grimsbud, Wayne Grimsrud, Andrew Gustafson, Donavan M. Hake, Kemper Harris, David K. Hartman, Eric Helmin, Kelly Hemenway, Gregory Hill, Luther Hill, Steven Hintz, Cate Honzl, Anne Hyvarinen, Matt Joyer, Jim Kindt, Brian Koehn, Sarah Kruchowski, Janet Lobberecht, Quentin Matthys, Sam McGlynn, Jarrette Moats, Scott Nordhausen, Patrick L. Owen, Dennis J. Perry, Sarah Regan, Keith Reitmeier, Brian Rhea, Renee T. Schendel, Jeff Schoen, Hans Schumacher, Shannon M. Schumacher, Sam Schwemberger, Bryan Shelley, Brian J. Simpson, Gary Surber, Dwight C. Swanson, Ryan Tallant, Chris Thickins, Scott Troha, Phil Vandervaart, Mike Wallien, Rob Walstead, Keith Walters, Pat Wilson, Mark Wojahn, Stephanie Jean Elmer, Erin Goedtel, Steven Hintz

Sound Department

Phil Barrie, Chris C. Benson, Craig Berkey, Ken Chastain, Johnna Chism, Marko A. Costanzo, Joel Dougherty, Frederic Echelard, Josh Frieser, Kenton Jakub, Randall L. Johnson, Peter F. Kurland, George A. Lara, Skip Lievsay, James Morioka, Jordan O'Neill, Greg Orloff, Byron Wilson, Peter Zimbicki, Eric Harwood, Jason Oliver

Special Effects by

Larz Anderson, Paul Deely, Steven Hintz

Visual Effects by

Mathieu Aerni, Oliver Arnold, Andy Burmeister, Alex Cancado, John Cassella, Vincent Cirelli, J. John Corbett, Katie Godwin, Anthony Grant, Steve Griffith, Jennifer Gutierrez, Jacob Harris, Brent Hensarling, Marla Neto Henshaw, Justin Johnson, Harimander Singh Khalsa, Jason Locke, Jessica Madsen, Artin Matousian, Glenn Morris, Justin Porter, Payam Shohadai, Joey Sila, Jared Simeth, Safari Sosebee, Steven Swanson, James Waterson, Patrick Clancey, John R. Hazzard, Thomas Mathai, Raphael A. Pimentel, Pavel Pranevsky, Christopher Sage, Maciek Sokalski, Kyle Ware


Danny Downey, Jery Hewitt, Eric D. Howell, Danny Downey

Camera and Electrical Department

Tristan Allen, Paul Candrilli, Peter Clemence, Edward Cohen, Roger Deakins, James Farrell, Tom Franchett, Joseph Gallup, Joseph Grimaldi, Bruce Hamme, Craig Hanson, Andy Harris, Travis Hottinger, Steven Jacobson, Scott Jolstad, Maria Juranic, Kevin Karpinski, Cole Koehler, Mitchell Andrew Lillian, Michael Lindquist, Chris Malone, Bill O'Leary, Timothy O'Toole, Matt Olson, David S. Pope, Gerhard Riautschnig, Joseph Slagerman, Steve Speers, Darin Spring, Jeff Villars, Peter Vongrossmann, Wilson Webb, Michael Winn, Kathryn Criston, Stephen Early

Casting Department

Kati Batchelder, Debbie DeLisi, Aaron Greenwood, Sondra James, Kelly C. McMahon, Amelia Rasche McCarthy, Sonja Thorson, Daniel Cummings, Ted Eschweiler, Todd B. Johnson, Punnavith Koy, Jennifer A. Wright, Zoe Zeppa

Costume and Wardrobe Department

Jan E. Adams, Virginia Burton, Lori DeLapp, Jenny Eagan, Nikki Fallenstein, Cynthia Kurkowski, Corrine Larson, Joan Lee, Melissa Seitzer, Cerah Tymoshuk, Jane E. Williams, Sonja Thorson

Editorial Department

Zana Bochar, Rick J. Brown, Buster Jacob Coen, Roland Eisinger, Emma Gaffney, Michael Hatzer, Ken Lebre, Christopher McDonald, Katie Mcquerrey, Loan Phan, Lisa Tutunjian, George Chavez, Marc Lulkin, Philippe Majdalani

Location Management

Tyson Bidner, Chris Cloud, Kat Donahue, Mark Har, Anne Healy, Kai Miller, Ben Wood

Music Department

Carter Burwell, Michael Farrow, Tony Finno, Todd Kasow, Sandra Park, Dean Parker, Chris Robertson

Script and Continuity Department

Thomas Johnston

Transportation Department

Carolyn J. Anderson, Curtis Wade Anderson, Richard Anderson, Michael Arnold, Michael Bakri, Mike Bearer, Jon Bjornson, Denny Braun, Guy Eckert, Andrew Garski, William Gillespie, Timothy S. Kennedy, Steve Kenney, Frank Ketchum, Anthony P. Kettner, Eugene Kirsch, Scott Lecy, George Lundquist, James A. Mahathey, Jean-Pierre Molina, Gary Olander, Byron Roland, Rajiv Sarin, Leonard Schneider, Marc Scott, Ernest Simon, Leo Skudlarek, Greg Viglione, Jon Westerlund, Fred Whipple, Mike Bronge

Additional Crew

John Alfred, Christina Angeloudes, Randall Balsmeyer, Kris Barberg, Cassandra Barbour, Rob Barros, Colleen Beach, Andrea Bias, Megan Alicia Brown, Carrie Bush, Stephen Clarke, Kevin Curtin, Adam DeLisi, Chloe Dorigan, Dave Dustin, Rachael Lin Gallaghan, Kristopher Gensmer, Kurt W. Gensmer, Dan Godar, Claudia Gray, Araceli Guerra, Patrick Hammer, David Hickey, Drew Houpt, Todd B. Johnson, Paul Kenney, Ivan Kerum, Mara Kerum, Ben Krueger, Cheryl Kurk, Lisa Kurk-Dmytryk, Ken Lebre, Troy Lochner, Jennifer P. Luther, Nikki Martin, David Mathiason, Guy Messenger, Angela Morrison, Patricia Mary Murphy, Sean Murphy, Neil Newman, Meredith Nunnikhoven, Jeremy Pierce-Sunia, Jonathan Pruett, Rachel V. Richardson, Allen Lewis Rickman, Kirsty Robinson-Ward, Luke Marcus Rosen, Leigh Rydberg, Sophie Saleyron, Laura Sevier, Sheeraz Shah, Cara Shine Ballarini, Todd Sinkewich, Dan Sklar, Shirah Sklar, Amy Thompson, Any Thompson, Jennifer A. Wright, Wendy Zierler, Shari Berda, Jean Dalsin, Adam Davis, Punnavith Koy, Liz Modena, Mary Moga, Shannon Schaefer, Araceli Smith, Matthew J. Vince


Bill Hudson, Eric Karpeles, Suzanne Lindbergh, Steven Lubensky, Mike Sell, Don Smith, Bill Thompson, Lucinda Winter, Michael Wong, Beverly Wood


Comedy, Drama


Focus Features, StudioCanal, Relativity Media


UK, France, USA


English, Yiddish, Hebrew





ImDb Rating Votes


Metacritic Rating


Short Description

A Serious Man is a 2009 black comedy-drama film written, produced, edited and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. Set in 1967, the film stars Michael Stuhlbarg as a Minnesota Jewish man whose life crumbles both professionally and personally, leading him to questions about his faith.

A Serious Man received widespread positive critical response, including a place on both the American Film Institute s and National Board of Review of Motion Pictures s Top 10 Film Lists of 2009. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, and Stuhlbarg was nominated for a Golden Globe Award.

Box Office Budget

$7,000,000 (estimated)

Box Office Opening Weekend USA


Box Office Gross USA


Box Office Cumulative Worldwide Gross