“Most people think life sucks, and then you die. Not me. I beg to differ. I think life sucks, then you get cancer, then your dog dies, your wife leaves you, the cancer goes into remission, you get a new dog, you get remarried, you owe ten million dollars in medical bills but you work hard for thirty five years and you pay it back and then one day you have a massive stroke, your whole right side is paralyzed, you have to limp along the streets and speak out of the left side of your mouth and drool but you go into rehabilitation and regain the power to walk and the power to talk and then one day you step off a curb at Sixty-seventh Street, and BANG you get hit by a city bus and then you die. Maybe”
― Denis Leary
In ‘A Serious Man’ we meet Larry Gopnik( Michael Stuhlbarg), a physics professor whose life starts resembling the situation described in the above quote. His complacent & normal world starts falling apart from all directions. His wife of so many years has a fling (with a guy named Sy Ableman) & unreasonably expects Larry to move out of his own home while she files for a divorce,his son is a music buff n a pot addict, his daughter has started stealing money from his wallet for an expensive nose job, his sick, somewhat mentally retard brother has moved in with him, his neighbor is encroaching on his property, one of his students is trying to bribe him to give the student passing grades n someone is sending anonymous derogatory letters to the college committee while Larry is being considered for a tenure at the university. In short everything that can go wrong is going wrong in Larry’s life. As the movie proceeds he starts facing serious financial problems as he has to engage various lawyers to deal with divorce n neighbor etc. n then in a hilarious turn of events his wife’s suitor dies n wife expects Larry to pay for his funeral. Larry just can’t understand why all this is happening to him especially when, “I didn’t do anything”. This assertion is very heart breaking but starts to acquire comical proportions when he forgets to do anything to get his tenure, he doesn’t do anything, he doesn’t even publish research papers that are so crucial in academia. In trying to make sense of his troubles he tries to meet three rabbis but their advice proves to be superfluous, irrelevant, unhelpful n even laughable. So our guy Larry’s life is growing more n more pathetic n confusing but this may be just the beginning of trouble! Things do start to get a little better for Larry but only to get worse. There is some calmness before the real storm hits him hard. He finally succumbs to the lure of money offered by bribe n no sooner than he changes the student grade from F to C he receives a call from his Doctor who wants to discuss Larry’s X-Ray Report which is apparently too grave to be discussed on phone. n in another shot his son gets caught in a tornado. So there is no happy ending here. Welcome to reality.
The underlying question in the story of Larry n in all our life stories is why do bad things happen to good people?(This movie is a modern retelling of ‘The Book of Job‘) n when bad things happen how are we supposed to feel n react. Larry’s situation is appropriately highlighted by the Jefferson Airplane Song: When the truth turns out to be lies n all the joy within you dies, don’t you want somebody to love; Schrodinger’s cat n Heizenberg’s Uncertainity Principle.
The Uncertainty Principle.
It proves we can’t ever really know…
what’s going on.
So it shouldn’t bother you. Not being able to figure anything out. Although you will be responsible for this on the mid-term.