Pre-Oscar Reading: Meaning Between the Lines of 'A Serious Man'

Like a lot of people I know, I was blown away by the Coen Brothers’ Oscar nominee, “A Serious Man.” Behind the absurdist comedy, it captured a penetrating insight about the Job theme in Jewish tradition and the vapidity so pervasive in contemporary American Jewish life. But I’ve been struggling in the months since I saw it to find words that could capture the depth of insight. I know I’m not the only one.

Well, this week’s Los Angeles Jewish Journal has a brilliant review-essay on the film and what it says about suburban Judaism in the mid-1960s, on the eve of the Six-Day War. (I confess I hadn’t even noticed the clues in the film that gave away the date the events were supposed to be taking place.) The author, Rabbi Anne Brener, a psychotherapist according to her bio in the Journal, got that (a calendar on the rabbi’s wall!) and a whole lot more.

Her essay is titled“When The Truth Is Found to Be Lies: The Coen Brothers’ Rorschach for Serious People.” Sharp readers will recognize those words as the beginning of a classic 1967 track by the Jefferson Airplane. Brener nails the role that the song plays in the film’s soundtrack. She also gets the Yiddish folk stuff that confused so many viewers.

If you have a moment before tonight’s Best Picture announcement, click the link and check it out.

Here’s a taste:

This story "Pre-Oscar Reading: Meaning Between the Lines of 'A Serious Man'" was written by J.J. Goldberg.

There’s a lot more, but here’s one of the kickers. After reminding us how the world changed during that summer of 1967, the Summer of Love and of the Six-Day War — just three weeks away from the week in May when the movie is set — she writes:

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.


J.J. Goldberg

J.J. Goldberg

Jonathan Jeremy “J.J.” Goldberg is editor-at-large of the Forward, where he served as editor in chief for seven years (2000-2007).

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Pre-Oscar Reading: Meaning Between the Lines of 'A Serious Man'

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