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A Serious Man [2009] [R] - 7.4.7



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Unlike the MPAA we do not assign one inscrutable rating based on age, but 3 objective ratings for SEX/NUDITY, VIOLENCE/GORE and PROFANITY on a scale of 0 to 10, from lowest to highest, depending on quantity and context.

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Sex & Nudity
Violence & Gore
1 to 10


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Michael Stuhlbarg stars as a 1960s Minnesota physics professor, whose wife (Sari Lennick) leaves him for one of his arrogant friends (Fred Malemed). The split is blamed on his gambling brother (Richard Kind), who lives on their couch, while his teen children (Aaron Wolff and Jessica McManus) goof off at school and seek plastic surgery and drugs as hobbies. Also with Adam Arkin, Fyvush Finkel, Amy Landecker, Peter Breitmayer, Alan Mandell, Stephen Park, Allen L. Rickman, Yelena Shmulenson, Ronald Schultz, Raye Birk, Jane Hammill, Claudia Wilkens, Simon Helberg, James Cada, Michael Lernerand and George Wyner. Directed by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen. [1:45]

SEX/NUDITY 7 - A woman lies on a chaise longue in her back yard, where a man can see her when he climbs on his low roof to fix an antenna: we see her twice in full frontal nudity, exposing bare breasts and pubic hair.
 In a dream sequence, a woman bounces up and down while straddling a man in a sexual position in bed: She wears a black bra and we see a small amount of cleavage and the man's bare shoulders.
 A man is examined in a doctor's office and in close-ups, and we see his abdomen and thighs. A beach scene shows many people in swim attire: boys are bare-chested, and girls and women wear one-piece swimsuits. In several brief bedroom scenes, we see a man in T-shirts and long boxer shorts. A woman wears short shorts in her house, revealing thighs.
 A woman announces to her husband that she has met another man and wants a ritual Jewish divorce, but she has not had sex with him (which she calls whoopsey-doopsey) with the other man. A man is arrested for gambling, solicitation and sodomy and his brother tells an attorney that the arrested man only goes to mixers at the Hillel Foundation and never even dates. A man tells his male supervisor during an informal review, "I saw 'Swedish Reverie', it wasn't even erotic."
 In two bedroom scenes, we see an older man and an older woman sleeping in long-sleeved and long legged pajamas, under covers; in one scene they hold hands.

VIOLENCE/GORE 4 - A husband tells his wife that a dead neighbor helped him with a broken wagon wheel in a snowstorm, but the wife rebukes him, stating that it was a spirit, and when he appears at the door the wife stabs him in the heart with an ice pick (a small trickle of blood is seen and a small spot of blood seeps through his shirt and it is unclear whether the man is real or a ghost); the woman says that their family is cursed by God.
 An elderly, overweight man enters an office, sits at a conference table, gets up, falls flat on his back, suggesting a heart attack, and the scene ends. A man dies in a car crash; we do not see any part of the accident, and we only hear a report by a teen girl and we hear a woman crying and wailing.
 A teacher struggles to open a school cellar door for children during the approach of a tornado: we see the tornado about 300 yards away from the children, we see the children turned toward the funnel cloud, watching it and the scene ends. A man in a car hits the car ahead of him at a slow speed and is rear-ended similarly; there are no injuries.
 A teen sister slaps her pre-teen bother on the back of the head and kicks him under the table during dinner, shouting at him and calling him a "brat." A family argues briefly and all slurp soup loudly. A man argues over the phone with another man about a bill. A man argues with his pre-teen son.
 A pre-teen boy runs away from another boy that wants to hit him, several times. Two police officers bring a man's brother to his house stating that he was arrested for gambling and other crimes and he shouts as the scene ends. A man cries in a motel room twice.
 In a dream sequence, two people are hunting in a marsh, one man stands up, points, and shouts, "Shoot the Jew," and the other, who's a boy, shoots at a man, strikes him in the back of the head and kills him (we see no blood); the dreaming man wakes with a start. In a dream sequence a man that has died sits in a professor's classroom, he gets up, slams the professor into a wall seven times and then he wakes with a start.
 A man and his son carry rifles and we later see them return with a dead deer on top of the car, showing a large spot of blood on its chest and has open eyes.
 In separate scenes an old woman and an old man cough up phlegm loudly and swallow it. In a dimly lit office, we see large insects in bottles of formaldehyde and a skull. A black-and-white film on TV shows a brain bubbling in a large transparent jar. A man has some sort of neck wound, for which he carries a small suction machine that is a box with a long hose; we never see the injury, but see an ice pack on the back of the neck and in one brief scene, we see the hose, which is labeled "suction," extending out of a closed bathroom door and hear a soft motor sound.
 A dentist forces a denture mold in and out of a man's mouth and later sees Hebrew characters on the teeth; he looks into many other people's mouths, searching for similar characters (we see many crooked teeth, fillings and stainless steel caps.
 A woman sits on a park bench wearing long shorts that reveal polio braces running from her knees to her heavy shoes and a pair of crutches leans against the back of the bench.

PROFANITY 7 - About 20 F-words, 2 sexual references, 9 scatological references, 6 anatomical references, 4 mild obscenities, name-calling (brat, child, Goy, Jew), 22 stereotypical comments about Jews, gentiles, women, teen girls, Koreans and Eastern Europeans, 6 religious profanities, 30 religious exclamations. [profanity glossary]

SUBSTANCE USE - A 12-year-old boy smokes a marijuana cigarette in a school restroom and a few minutes later staggers around and his vision is foggy, two boys smoke a marijuana cigarette while sitting in a tree and later while standing in a restroom stall in a Synagogue, and a woman lights a marijuana cigarette and takes a puff then passes it to a male visitor who also takes a puff and the scene becomes hazy and foggy and the woman switches to a tobacco cigarette. A man takes a bottle of wine to a male friend as a gift (they do not open it) and they discuss how to open it and let it breathe. A doctor lights and smokes a cigarette and offers one to a patient who declines, a woman smokes a cigarette in her back yard and later indoors, an elderly man smokes a pipe, but lets it fall from his mouth, a woman in a sexual dream smokes a cigarette, and an ashtray on a doctor's office desk is completely filled with cigarette butts.

DISCUSSION TOPICS - Judaism, family, relationships, infidelity, divorce, bribery, death, disappointment, gambling, challenges, ghosts and superstitions.

MESSAGE - Sometimes, life can seem cursed.

Special Keywords: S7 - V4 - P7 - MPAAR

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A CAVEAT: We've gone through several editorial changes since we started covering films in 1992 and some of our early standards were not as stringent as they are now. We therefore need to revisit many older reviews, especially those written prior to 1998 or so; please keep this in mind if you're consulting a review from that period. While we plan to revisit and correct older reviews our resources are limited and it is a slow, time-consuming process.

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