The Coen Brothers are the masters of the story without a story, and A Serious Man is a raging success by these standards. The movie is at its funniest in its first half, but maintains some outrageous Lebowski-like stories-within-the-story throughout.
Michael Stuhlbarg plays Professor Larry Gopnik, a nerdy professor who is trying to win tenure at his school in the Twin Cities when all begins to go wrong. His son constantly smokes marijuana leading up to his bar mitzvah. His daughter obsesses about getting a nose job. And his wife wants to leave him for a warm, caring flake of a guy, who ends up dying after he's helped Larry's wife drain the Gopnik bank account. Larry attempts to get help in three hilarious scenes from three different rabbis. By the end, it looks like things are finally getting better for Larry, but then a flurry of potentially bad news hits the family before a sudden ending leave us to only wonder about this odd family.
Stuhlbarg, mostly a stage actor, deserves his Golden Globe nomination for best actor. Other than that, this is far from Ethan and Joel Coen's best movie, but it's still one of the best things to get released in 2009.
**** out of ***** stars