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A Serious Man
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Synopsis for
A Serious Man (2009) More at IMDbPro »

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The day of Danny Gopnick's bar mitzvah arrives. As he goes to read from the Torah, his mind freezes and he stands as if in a trance. He looks at his family, and back down at the Torah. All at once he comes into focus and begins chanting from the Torah flawlessly. As parents Larry and Judith watch proudly, they start to hold hands and arms, as if beginning to reconnect. Judith suddenly tells Larry that Sy always admired Larry very much, and secretly wrote letters of recommendation on Larry's behalf, to the college tenure board.

At the completion of the ceremony, Danny is told about the rights and duties of being a full member of the community and the synagogue. He is given a kiddush cup and told that he has been granted an audience with Rabbi Marshak.

Danny goes into Marshak's office, and sits in front of him. Marshak speaks slowly, almost haltingly, and in a way that suggests he's a little addled. He begins to quote lines from Jefferson Airplane's 'Somebody to Love' (not quite accurately) and recites the names of the group's members (again, not quite accurately). He then gives Danny back his confiscated radio and simply says, "Be a good boy."

The scene begins to switch back and forth at this point between Larry at his office in the college, and Danny at Hebrew school. Arlen visits Larry at his office, congratulating him on Danny's bar mitzvah and speaking about the need to savor such moments of family blessings, with which Larry agrees and promises to do. Carefully emphasizing that he is speaking off the record and didn't actually 'say anything,' Arlen insinuates that Larry has earned tenure at the college.

We then see Danny listening to the radio through his earphones, discreetly goofing off during Hebrew class again. He sees that the $20 he secreted in the radio's leather belt pouch to pay for the pot sold him by Mike Fagle, is still there. He tries to carefully whisper to Fagle, whose seat is in front of him.

Larry opens some of his mail and one of the letters is a legal bill for $3,000.00. Going to his grade book, he stares at the F given to Clive Park, and after some thought, changes it to a C minus. Abruptly his phone rings.

Back at Hebrew school, a principal's aide enters and whispers to the teacher, who announces that a tornado warning has sounded and all students are to be ushered into the synagogue basement.

Larry answers his phone and it's Dr. Shapiro, who congratulates Larry on Danny's bar mitzvah but then suddenly announces he wants Larry to come into his office to discuss the results of his X-Ray, which Larry was shown getting near the beginning of the movie.

Back at Hebrew school, the kids are all waiting in the parking lot as the teacher fumbles with his keys. Wind is picking up and the teacher can't seem to pick out the correct key to open the door to the basement.

Back at Larry's office, Larry asks if he can talk on the phone about the X-Ray results, but Dr. Shapiro feels it would be best done in person. Larry asks when, and Dr. Shapiro says now; he's set some time aside for Larry to come to his office right away. It's suggested strongly that Larry is seriously ill; possibly even terminally.

Prior to this, Larry's wife informed told him she wants a divorce and moves her new partner, the condescending Sy, into their home. Larry is farmed out to a motel with his ne'er-do-well brother, Arthur.

The final scene is back at the Hebrew school. Danny sees Mike Fagle standing in front of him and calls out to him, looking to give him the $20 he owes him. Suddenly Fagle turns around and stares over his shoulder at Danny, and Danny freezes on seeing what Fagle had been looking at: a funnel cloud heading straight toward the school... and all the kids, as the teacher is still unable to locate the correct key to the basement.

Fade to black as 'Somebody to Love' by Jefferson Airplane begins to play.


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