It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
We learn from the Book of Job: Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble. Such a man is Larry Gopnik. He lectures on physics in front of a blackboard filled with bewildering equations that are mathematical proofs approaching certainty, and in his own life, what can be sure of? Nothing, that's what.
His wife is leaving him for his best friend. His son is listening to rock 'n' roll in Hebrew school. His daughter is stealing money for a nose job. His brother-in-law is sleeping on the sofa and lurking in unsavory bars. His gun-nut neighbor frightens him. A student tries to bribe him and blackmail him at the same time. The tenure committee is getting unsigned libelous letters about him. The wife of his other neighbor is sex-crazy. God forbid this man should see a doctor.
"This is the kind of picture you get to make after you've won an Oscar," writes Todd McCarthy in Variety. I cannot improve on that. After the seriously great "No Country for Old Men," the Coen brothers have made the not greatly serious "A Serious Man," which bears every mark of a labor of love.
It is set in what I assume to be a Minneapolis suburb of their childhood, a prairie populated by split-level homes with big garages but not enough trees around them. In this world, Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) earnestly desires to be taken as a serious man and do the right thing, but does God take him seriously? "I read the book of Job last night," Virginia Woolf said. "I don't think God comes out well in it." Someone up there doesn't like Larry Gopnik.