A Serious Man 2009

Critics score:
89 / 100

Reviews provided by RottenTomatoes

Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune: A Serious Man has a script, a clarity and a tone that come from craftsmen and wits (dour ones, but wits all the same) at the peak of their game. Read more

James Rocchi, MSN Movies: Funny but, yes, also thought-provoking and moving, 'A Serious Man' may be among the Coens' finest works and stands as one of the funniest, freshest and smartest movies of 2009. Read more

David Edelstein, New York Magazine/Vulture: A Serious Man is not only hauntingly original, it's the final piece of the puzzle that is the Coens. Read more

Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal: What do the Coen brothers want of us? More specifically, what do they want us to think of the repellent people in this pitilessly bleak movie? Read more

Moira MacDonald, Seattle Times: While there are plenty of oddball touches, some mystifying (like the Yiddish-language prologue, set in a Polish shtetl and seeming to have little to do with what follows it; and the abrupt ending) -- we see in it some genuine fondness for the characters. Read more

Noel Murray, AV Club: A Serious Man is wholly a Coen brothers movie, in that it's full of exaggerated characters and comic cruelty, anchored to a way of looking at the world that seems to posit a fundamental absence of meaning. Read more

Ty Burr, Boston Globe: Can art come from jadedness? Will the brothers ever "mean it''? A Serious Man forces the issue in ways that will either floor you or drive you batty. Read more

Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times: [The Coens have made] their most personal, most intensely Jewish film, a pitch-perfect comedy of despair that, against some odds, turns out to be one of their most universal as well. Read more

J. R. Jones, Chicago Reader: It has all the earmarks of a personal statement, one of those movies that their biographer will use to connect the dots after they're gone. Read more

Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor: The Coens may play around with that tradition, they may disparage it or mock it. But they are irrevocably a part of it, and that's all to the good. Read more

Lisa Kennedy, Denver Post: This parable of the welcome-unwelcome guest is less a key to the ensuing domestic drama than a teasing reminder of the traditional roots of the brothers' singular skill with humor and violence. Read more

Tom Long, Detroit News: Life is pain. Life is funny. Things happen randomly, with no purpose or reason that can be discerned. Searching for answers is futile. Enjoy what you can. Read more

Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly: A Serious Man isn't perfect -- I'm still grappling with the powerfully offbeat ending -- but it's cathartic to see the Coens finally show you a bit of who they are, or at least where they came from. Read more

Laremy Legel, Film.com: This is the world the Coens delve into with each and every film, and yes, it's a total nightmare. They may do it with style and a smirk, but we should always consider the larger questions they're asking. Read more

Christy Lemire, Associated Press: Watching and wondering how and when he'll snap provides dark humor, yes -- we're glad we're not this poor guy -- but also a mounting sense of unease, and it should provoke lengthy and serious debate about the nature of faith. Read more

Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald: That song (Jefferson Airplane's Somebody to Love), which becomes a sort of mantra to the movie, is the key to understanding what the Coens are after: When the truth is found to be lies, and all the joy within you dies, you better find somebody to love. Read more

Rafer Guzman, Newsday: If you're puzzled by the Coen Brothers' horrific comedies, this is the closest thing you'll get to an explanation. Read more

David Denby, New Yorker: As a piece of moviemaking craft, A Serious Man is fascinating; in every other way, it's intolerable. Read more

Stephen Whitty, Newark Star-Ledger: So which is it: a simply pointless existence? Or a world so complicated, we can't grasp the point? If you think the Coens are going to try and answer that question, you haven't seen many of their movies. Read more

Elizabeth Weitzman, New York Daily News: Since everyone is turned into such a caricature, the answers feel optional. It's hard to forget that Larry's fate is being controlled not by God or luck or even his own worst instincts, but by the Coens. Read more

Lou Lumenick, New York Post: A Serious Man may not have the starry casts of the Coens' more recent films, but it has plenty of heart and soul. It's a movie mitzvah. Read more

Rex Reed, New York Observer: Not one of their best films, but because of its sincerity and the parsing away of sentiment and pretension, it is, in many ways, one of their most likable. Read more

Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel: Their most inside joke ever, it leaves you with a lot to chew on, if not a lot to enjoy. Read more

Carrie Rickey, Philadelphia Inquirer: Embrace the mystery, the Coens tell us. At the same time, they can't resist pulling the rug out from under our feet. Read more

James Berardinelli, ReelViews: Represents another change in course for the brothers, and it will reside in the upper echelon of their titles, although a little below the top. Read more

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times: This isn't a laugh-laugh movie, but a wince-wince movie. Those can be funny, too. Read more

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: This seriously funny movie, artfully photographed by the great Roger Deakins, is spiritual in nature, barbed in tone, and, oh, yeah, it stings like hell. Read more

Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle: It's hard to love a movie that makes you feel anxious and miserable, and yet it's impossible not to respect a movie that has that power. Read more

Dana Stevens, Slate: An exquisitely realized work; the filmmakers' technical mastery of their craft, always impressive, has become absolute. Read more

Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune: Man plans, God laughs, and so do the Coen brothers. Read more

Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Is A Serious Man funny? Absolutely - but in much the same way as the old joke about a fellow who loved to hit his own head because it felt so good when he stopped. Read more

Peter Howell, Toronto Star: Resolutely paced, impeccably staged and lensed, it's comedy for people who can laugh at poetic car wrecks, obtuse rabbis, mysterious dental messages and an endlessly drained cyst. Read more

Richard Corliss, TIME Magazine: To absorb God's body blows, this disquieting, haunting movie says, is to be fully alive. To do otherwise could kill you. Read more

Ben Kenigsberg, Time Out: Read more

Dave Calhoun, Time Out: Read more

Ben Walters, Time Out: The film's potency is rooted in quiet precision and detailed realisation. Roger Deakins's typically polished photography gives an oppressively hard edge to Midwestern suburbia. Read more

Christopher Orr, The New Republic: Humor and empathy alike have trouble flourishing in the grim narrative soil the Coens provide, in which every cosmic joke is a black one. Read more

Claudia Puig, USA Today: A Serious Man is a wonderfully odd, bleakly comic and thoroughly engrossing film. Read more

Todd McCarthy, Variety: A Serious Man is the kind of picture you get to make after you've won an Oscar. Read more

Ella Taylor, Village Voice: The production notes are larded with the Coen Brothers' disclaiming protestations of affection for their hapless characters, but make no mistake: We're being invited to share in their disgust. Read more

Ann Hornaday, Washington Post: Mostly, A Serious Man succeeds because it engages questions worth asking. What is integrity? Does our atavistic need for stories illuminate the meaning of life or further obfuscate it? What does it mean to be good and how are we to achieve it? Read more