Throughout an illustrious career Coen brothers Ethan and Joel have crafted some very outstanding and gripping movies as writers and directors.
Humorous movies, such as Raising Arizona, The Big Lebowski; Intolerable Cruelty, and the allegorical O Brother, Where Art Thou? based on Homer's Odyssey, both featuring George Clooney in two of his best roles. Gripping and more serious movies include Millers Crossing, Blood Simple, Fargo, and No Country for Old Men.
In so doing they have received numerous nominations and won 5 Academy Awards for Best Director, Writing and Picture for No Country, and Best Director and Writing for Fargo. Actors working with them have won Academy Awards: Frances McDormand for Fargo, and Javier Bardem for No Country. Frances is married to Joel Coen.
A Serious Man marks a continuation, a departure, and a progression in their work.
In No Country, thematically, people died randomly, and suddenly, and as a friend remarked. 'they never saw it coming.' Sometimes neither did we. People spoke of a nihilistic philosophy underpinning the movie.
Nihilism proposes that life and events have no inherent meaning or purpose, no rhyme or reason. In a contrasting philosophy when someone dies one might say that's karma, or they got what they deserved, or in the greater scheme of things, it makes sense.
It's 1967, midwest suburbia. Larry Blotnick, physics professor, up for tenure, has it all figured out or so he thinks, then things happen which make him search for meaning and answers. His blackboard is filled with formulas. Shrodingers Cat can be reduced to a formula, but he admits he does not understand the story. A failing student understands the cat, but not the math.
Anonymous letters threaten Larry's tenure bid. Blackmail, bribery, Sy Ableman happen, and throw him into crisis. No formula, no uncertainty principle, can explain what's happening. Larry is immediately recognisable as the everyman protagonist. If you're like me you recognise yourself as having walked in those shoes, and yet it's all done with humor, and you will root for this guy.
You hope that he gets it on with the attractive nude sunbathing female neighbor. His quest for answers take him to three different rabbis, with three different responses, and maybe Jefferson Airplane has the answers, and maybe there is no answer, maybe there is no point, and maybe you need to 'accept the mystery.'
I predict that you will scratch your head and wonder about the first scene, and how it relates to the rest of the movie. I don't know. Maybe there is no point, and that's the point.
Even though on the surface it may not be as universally appealing as No Country, if you look a little deeper it may be the most universally relevant movie they have done.
I hope this was helfpul.