I saw this because it was one of the last films Robin Williams made. And I would say that if you are thinking of doing the same, don’t. It’s just not worth it.
The concept is almost good. There is a guy, Henry Altmann (Robin Williams) who is totally angry all of the time. Then he is told by his doctor’s fill-in, Dr Sharon Gill (Mila Kunis) that he has a brain aneurism (true) and has ninety minutes to live (false), and he storms out, threatening to sue. So while he runs around trying to reconcile with his estranged son and distant wife and figures out how much he has messed up his life, she is trying to find him, and has his family looking for him. See, almost good. Actually, not even almost.
And the film is not even saved by the amazing cast – Robin Williams, of course, plus Mila Kunis, Peter Dinklage, Melissa Leo, Hamish Linklater, James Earl Jones, Richard Kind… but they cannot save it. I love your low-budget type dramas and the like, but this just doesn’t work.
Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) is a teacher whose wife is planning to leave him, who has two children who barely notice him, whose brother has been living on the couch for quite some time and who has a student attempting to bribe him for a passing grade. He doesn’t seem to have any emotional response to any of this. The main response he gets from any of his friends and colleagues is to ask if he has consulted a rabbi. He visits various rabbis getting confusing responses.
I’ve been a huge fan of the Coens for so long that it is so disappointing to come across one of their films that doesn’t totally work for me. I loved the pacing and the feel of the film – really reminded me of early work like Barton Fink. Perhaps it was just there were some parts that I reckon I didn’t get as much because I don’t know all of the ins and outs of the Jewish religion – or how it would be to be a middle class Jew in the suburbs of America in the sixties. I just accepted that some stuff was important even if I didn’t know why. Still, every time that I felt I wasn’t enjoy the film, a scene came along that gave me the Coen brothers love back.
A Serious Man was nominated for Oscars for Best Motion Picture of the Year and Best Writing, Original Screenplay.