Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live. Through reviews, articles and discussions, we want to spark intellectual thought, spiritual growth and a desire to follow the command of Colossians 2:8: "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."


Family uses Plugged In as a ‘significant compass’

"I am at a loss for words to adequately express how much it means to my husband and me to know that there is an organization like Focus that is rooting for us. Just today I was reading Psalm 37 and thinking about how your ministry provides ways to 'dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.' We have two teenagers and an 8-year-old in our household...Plugged In has become a significant compass for our family. All three of our kids are dedicated to their walk with Christ but they still encounter challenges. Thanks for all of your research and persistence in helping us navigate through stormy waters."

Plugged In helps college student stand-up for his belief

"Thanks for the great job you do in posting movie and television reviews online. I’m a college freshman and I recently had a confrontational disagreement with my English professor regarding an R-rated film. It is her favorite movie and she wanted to show it in class. I went to your Web site to research the film’s content. Although I had not seen the movie myself, I was able to make an educated argument against it based on the concerns you outlined. The prof said that she was impressed by my stand and decided to poll the whole class and give us a choice. We overwhelmingly voted to watch a G-rated movie instead! I’ve learned that I can trust your site and I will be using it a lot in the future.”

Plugged In brings ‘Sanity and Order’ to Non-believer

“Even though I don’t consider myself a Christian, I find your Plugged In Web site useful and thought-provoking. No one reviews movies like you do. Instead of being judgmental, you put entertainment ‘on trial.’ After presenting the evidence, you allow the jury of your readers to decide for themselves what they should do. In my opinion, you bring sanity and order to the wild world of modern day entertainment. Keep up the good work!”

Mom thinks Plugged In is the ‘BEST Christian media review site’

"Our family doesn't go to the movies until we go online and check out your assessment of a given film. I think this is the BEST Christian media review website that I've found, and I recommend it to my family and friends. Keep up the good work!"


Our hope is that whether you're a parent, youth leader or teen, the information and tools at Plugged In will help you and your family make appropriate media decisions. We are privileged to do the work we do, and are continually thankful for the generosity and support from you, our loyal readers, listeners and friends.


    No Rating Available

Watch This Review

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Movie Review

Scientifically and spiritually, Larry Gopnik believes that actions always have consequences. Good equals good. Bad results in bad. Gravity always works, causing the apple to fall close to the tree. Mathematical proofs never lie.

Larry's a mild-mannered physics professor in the 1960s. He's a nice guy and upright Jewish family man who always does what's expected of him. And that's why, when his life starts to crumble, he has a hard time believing it's actually happening to him. Surely this should be happening to somebody else who deserves it! Maybe to one of his negligent neighbors—the marijuana-smoking nude sunbather, for instance, or that steely-eyed redneck with all the guns?

But, no. It really is his nicely pressed world that's starting to split at the seams.

Out of the blue, Larry's wife, Judith, announces that she's divorcing him and marrying an unctuous, smooth-talking widower named Sy. She and Sy are so bold about their plans that they even tell Larry to pack his things and move to a nearby motel—for the kids' sake, of course. And he can take his emotionally distraught brother, Arthur, with him.

Being the nice guy that he is, Larry complies. He doesn't want to make waves or hurt the kids. Especially with his son Danny's Bar Mitzvah right around the corner. So he barely utters a peep of protest as he checks in at the Jolly Roger.

A car wreck. A tenure crisis at his university. Conflict with a failing student who demands an A anyway. Cops showing up at the front door. And a fence line dispute with that gun-loving goy next door. All are merely icing on Larry's rapidly collapsing cake.

What's going on? Larry begins to wonder. What horrible thing has he done to have earned such treatment? What does God want from him? Larry decides to find out. So he walks into a rabbi's office. …

Positive Elements

Larry's dedication to trying to do what's right is inspiring in its own quiet way. It drives him nearly crazy and he doesn't always stand firm, but he at least outlasts everybody else in the story. He appears to love his manipulating, overwrought wife and his oblivious, self-absorbed kids in spite of their failings. He is very patient with, and comforting to, his fragile brother. He doesn't lash out at Sy. When he confronts his neighbor about the encroaching shed the man plans to build, he does so as responsibly as he can.

He has many a dream of doing the wrong thing. But when push comes to shove in his waking hours, he almost always passes the test.

Similarly, his desire to discover the spiritual meaning behind his travails is right on the money. …

Spiritual Content

The advice he gets from the rabbis he talks with, however, leaves quite a lot to be desired.

God factors heavily into A Serious Man's story. Larry is not really a man of fervent faith, but his travails are always seen through the lens of his Jewish heritage. So questions of Hashem's will are constantly being put forth. And the questions are good ones. It's the answers Larry gets that crash and burn. The first—young—rabbi he speaks with fixates on looking at life through "new, fresh" eyes as he makes a big deal out of the miracle of cars in the parking lot. The very best he can do is say, "You have to see these things as an expression of God's will."

The second—older—rabbi is worse. He rambles through parable-like tales that don't really have any relation to Larry's struggles. And when pinned down with a demand for an explanation of the stories he tells, he responds with a shrug. "What difference does it make?" he says. Larry exclaims, "It sounds like you don't know anything!"

The third—ancient—rabbi won't even talk to Larry. He's too busy thinking, his secretary says.

According to a family friend, "It's not always easy figuring out what God is trying to tell you." True enough, but Larry's been left in the lurch, and he knows it.

Elsewhere, Danny and a quartet of rabbis sing prayers in Hebrew during the lad's Bar Mitzvah. And I should note here that Danny is so stoned he's barely able to stand up, much less recite. In an opening scene, a woman says in Yiddish, "God has cursed us." Then, when she is sure she's saved her home from a ghostly invasion (by stabbing a man in the chest), she states, "Blessed is the Lord. Good riddance to evil."

Sexual Content

Larry climbs up on the roof to adjust his TV antenna and spots his neighbor, Mrs. Samsky, sunbathing in the nude in her backyard (displaying full-frontal nudity from a distance). When Larry meets the woman and confesses that he and his wife are separated, she suggestively asks him if he's taking "advantage of his new freedoms." Larry later dreams of having sex with the woman while she straddles him wearing a bra. (The scene includes graphic sexual movements and sounds.)

In another dream, Sy slams Larry up against a blackboard and coarsely states that he's had sex with Judith. A pair of policemen say that Arthur has been arrested for "solicitation and sodomy." Danny's question about what sodomy is doesn't get answered.

Violent Content

In the opening segment set in the 1800s, a woman stabs a man in the chest with an ice pick. As blood begins to soak his shirt, the elderly man hobbles out into the snow.

Larry triggers a three-car pile-up in town. We don't see it, but Sy is also involved in a wreck. Larry's angry gun-toting neighbor returns from a hunting trip with a bloody deer carcass strapped to his station wagon's roof. Later, in one of Larry's dreams, the neighbor shoots Arthur with his rifle and then points at Larry and says to his son, "There's another Jew, son!" A painting depicts the biblical Abraham holding a knife to Isaac's chest. A lawyer keels over in a meeting with a heart attack.

Crude or Profane Language

About 20 f-words pepper the dialogue, most of them delivered by middle school boys. There are also at least a half-dozen s-words, four or five forceful abuses of Jesus' name and a handful of uses of "a‑‑."

Drug and Alcohol Content

The movie minors on marijuana. Larry gets high when he shares a joint with Mrs. Samsky. And she smokes more of it in Larry's dream. Danny talks of buying a "lid" from a neighbor boy. And we see him on several occasions—including just before his Bar Mitzvah—getting stoned with schoolmates.

Folks smoke tobacco as well, in the form of cigarettes and a pipe. When Sy comes over to talk with Larry, he brings a bottle of fine wine as a bribe of sorts.

Other Negative Elements

In a running gag, Arthur is constantly draining a sebaceous cyst on his neck. (We never actually see it, just his actions revolving around it.) Danny breaks into his teacher's desk looking for a confiscated radio. It's made clear that Arthur's been participating in illegal gambling.

Larry's neighbor's reaction to Asians, while understated, is rancidly racist.


Over the years, the Coen brothers, responsible for the likes of Burn After Reading, No Country for Old Men, The Big Lebowski and Fargo, have used satirical wit and a flair for quirky characters to paint dramatically twisted portraits of everything from golden age Hollywood writers to modern day hit men. Now they've turned the lens inward, toward their own experiences growing up. While not autobiographical in any specific sense, A Serious Man examines the directing/writing team's roots with a deconstructing look at a Midwestern Jewish family.

Strangely—as is often the case with the Coens—the film's tone is set with an opening scene from the 1800s. A Yiddish-speaking couple receive an ominous visit from what they perceive to be an evil entity. "God has cursed us," the woman intones before plunging an ice pick into their guest's chest.

And then we jump ahead to Larry and his troubles.

Is that first scene, then, a portent of suffering that's handed down from Larry's ancestors? Or just a suggestion that being God's chosen people has more curse than blessing about it? Or perhaps it's designed to set the stage for Larry's tale to thumb its nose at the very concept of spirituality. A sneering statement that life is simply random, that spiritual answers seem so wispy because … there are no answers.

Those are the kinds of thoughts and questions A Serious Man raises as it leaps into Larry's trials. He becomes something of a 1960s Job—that is if Job wrestled with plagues sent down from a heavenly hermit who didn't really care about any of us or perhaps never really existed at all.

As the end credits approach, Danny finishes his Bar Mitzvah and is ushered into the presence of an old and wizened rabbi to receive a blessing. This is the same rabbi Larry has tried to reach throughout the story for some word of reason, some sense of spiritual direction. So we hang on his every word as he speaks with Danny. Will he share with the boy what he's refused to tell the man? Will he point the way to paradise? Hardly. Instead of scriptural enlightenment, the old man imparts the lyrics from a Jefferson Airplane song and sends the young teen out with this pallid profundity: "Be a good boy."

The emperor truly has no clothes. But I'm not sure the emperor in this case is really the rabbi. It's more likely the Coens. Because amid all of their philosophic meanderings and high-minded imaginings, "be good" is about the best answer they can come up with.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles



Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range



Michael Stuhlbarg as Larry Gopnik; Sari Lennick as Judith Gopnik; Aaron Wolff as Danny Gopnik; Richard Kind as Uncle Arthur; Fred Melamed as Sy Ableman; Adam Arkin as The Divorce Lawyer


Joel Coen ( )Ethan Coen ( )


Focus Features



Record Label



In Theaters

October 9, 2009

On Video

February 9, 2010

Year Published



Bob Hoose

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Get weekly e-news, Culture Clips & more!