Music Literature Film Index About

A Serious Man, Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen

Focus Features, October 2, 2009 (US)

Screenplay: Ethan Coen and Joel Coen

Starring: Michael Stuhlbarg and Richard Kind

So the Bulls are playing Team Hollywood tonight—that’s what Noah calls them—when, uh oh … this can’t be good. Reception getti...fufu...fu...z…zy.

You don’t know the cause or what it all means. You only know that it can’t be good.

Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg): The Uncertainty Principle. It proves we can’t ever really know … what’s going on. So it shouldn’t bother you. Not being able to figure anything out. Although you will be responsible for this on the mid-term.

Back at the office, the powers that be are busy explaining cursory details about the sale of the company but everything they say is simply boilerplate. Answers to any real questions carry more spin than a Rafael Nadal forehand deep from an-orange-and-red Paris baseline. My mind is wandering again … how many French Opens is that for Nadal now, anyway? Focus! Corporate buyout, career, mortgage, health insurance. Now what?

Larry: I feel like the carpet’s been yanked out from under me.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Some begin to look to the universe for signs that can help guide them through the rough spots.

Rabbi Nachtner (George Wyner): How does God speak to us? A good question.

But sometimes these precious signs—if they exist at all—are just not that easy to spot, you know? Not to mention they require a hell of a lot of faith! Which isn’t to say that it’s all a bunch of hogwash and signs do not exist. But sometimes, the signs hit you square upside the head making their existence simply undeniable.

Sy Ableman (Fred Melamed): I fucked your wife, Larry! I seriously fucked her!

Whether the sign is satisfactory or not can hardly be the point. It’s just good to know that there are answers at all so if the almighty universe wants to throw you a bone so you can then reinsert a little bit of order into the chaos and uncertainty, you take it. For better or for worse.

But wait a minute … hold on there, little fellow. A group of voices call out from the darkness. They’re not buying any of it. From global warming to the validity of an equation used to derive wind chill, they’re simply not buying it. I think it has something to do with the lure of contradiction. Maybe we all just want to hold on to whatever it is that makes us feel unique and so we slip into the role of devil’s advocate, willingly substituting facts with opinions as if they are freely interchangeable.

Larry: Always! Actions always have consequences! In this office, actions have consequences!

Clive Park (David Kang): Yes sir.

Larry: Not just physics. Morally.

Clive : Yes.

Larry: And we both know about your actions.

Clive: No sir. I know about my actions.

Larry: I can interpret, Clive. I know what you meant me to understand.

Clive: Meer sir my sir.

Larry: Meer sir my sir?

Clive: Mere... surmise. Sir. Very uncertain.

Oh, what the hell do I know? I just want to watch the damn game tonight but can’t even manage to do that. Apparently there is a patch of clouds somewhere off to the east or the west or wherever the damn satellite is pointing so it looks like it is pretty much game over for me. Coincidentally, the same can be said about a girl who is out on the street, not two blocks from where I write this right now. She is getting closer and closer to an alley where a figure—a man?—is hiding in the shadows. It doesn’t look like it will end well at all for the girl, but this is where our story abruptly ends, leaving us once again without essential data.