#1 - A Serious ManMy #2 movie, 500 Days of Summer, was a great movie but was incomplete in a few ways. A Serious Man is complete. It's perfect. Everything works.
I've enjoyed some Coen Brothers movies in the past. My favorite is Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? But I've also been bored by some. I couldn't make it through The Man Who Wasn't There. While they certainly hit more than they miss, I don't know if I've ever been more than a casual fan.
If I had any problem with this movie it's that I'm not Jewish so I probably didn't catch some things here and there. But even if that's the case, it was presented for everybody. So if you're a gentile worried that you won't get it, worry no longer.
I knew the basic idea of the story going in. The Coen Brothers were retelling the story of Job. In case you don't know his story, God gets a long term case of diarrhea and uses Job instead of a toilet.
But even though I knew that this guy was going to get crapped on, it was still filled with plenty of surprises. There's a great scene involving a couple cars driving along. You know what's going to happen, but not really.
Every scene is essential and perfect, filled with a lot of fantastic, snappy dialogue, particularly from the rabbis (rabbanim? rabbii?) that Larry goes to visit.
For the lead, they couldn't have cast Larry Gopnik any more perfectly that Michael Stuhlbarg. He's basically an unknown. I see from his IMDB page that he was in Cold Souls and a couple episodes of Studio 60, but I didn't recognize him. And that's the way it needed to be. He needed to be an everyman. Jake Gyllenhaal, Shia LaBeouf or Corey Feldman couldn't have been Larry Gopnik. That's right. I chose the Tochnit Av Triumvirate of Jake, Shia, and Corey as my token Jewish actors.