A Serious Man
Musical Score By: Carter Burwell
Distributed by: Lakeshore Records
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
The year is 1967 and physics professor Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) has just been informed by his wife (Sari Lennick) that she is leaving him for one of his more pompous acquaintances, Sy Ableman (Fred Melamed) His unemployed brother Arthur (Richard Kind) is sleeping on the Gopnik’s couch, Larry’s son Danny (Aaron Wolff) is a disciplinary problem and his daughter Sarah (Jessica McManus) regularly steals money from Larry’s wallet as she secretly saves money for a nose job. Oh, and did I mention that an anonymous letter has threatened to ruin Larry’s chances for tenure? Then, there is the grad student attempting to bribe him for a good grade, the woman next door sunbathing in the nude and more. Who could possibly help Larry cope with all of this drama so that he may become a serious man?
A Serious Man is a dark comedy from the kings of dark comedy, the Coen Brothers. Having composed music for Coen Brothers’ films since the mid-1980s - Fargo, No Country for Old Men, Raising Arizona, In Bruges, Burn After Reading and more - Carter Burwell was the logical choice to compose the musical score for A Serious Man. Two other artists are featured on this soundtrack. Jefferson Airplane offers up some mood music in addition to setting the scene with appropriate music of the times. World Renowned Yiddish music performer Sidor Belarsky also adds to the scene setting by offering us a glimpse into Larry’s faith.
When I first popped A Serious Man into my CD player, I had no idea what the movie was about. Most of the composed tracks are rather short and are either extremely morose in nature or quite eerie. I wasn’t certain if I was listening to composition from a very dramatic film or from a horror flick…or both. The second half of Track 4, Good Riddance/The Canal, offered up some exciting and rather enjoyable rock and roll representing the 60’s. This was immediately followed by Jefferson Airplane’s Somebody to Love - a rather appropriate song now that I know what the film is about.
We went back into the short and rather non-defining musical score until Track 11 which features Jefferson Airplane’s Comin’ Back to Me, a rather sad and yet extremely appropriate song. It’s back to the same old short morose track until we reach the final track on the album, Sidor Belarsky’s Dem Milner’s Trern.
Quite honestly, this soundtrack is nothing special until you get to the songs performed by Jefferson Airplane. There’s really no substance to the musical composition and the score does little to define the film except to describe the extremely sad life of Larry Gopnik. I recommend you pass on the soundtrack of A Serious Man and simply download tracks 4, 5 and 11 - they’re the only ones really worth listening to on the album.