YMMV / A Serious Man

  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: The film opens up with the story of a Jewish couple and a rabbi who may or may not be a dybbuk (a reanimated spirit in Judaism). This is not mentioned again afterwards; it's supposed to give a demonstration of the film's conflicts (faith vs. reason, etc.).
    • You could count most of the film as one of these: it's a kaleidoscope of angst-ridden Jewish whimsy. It's the accumulative effect of the recurring verbal symbolism (including the first scene) that gives the film depth. At a shallow glance it just seems like one utterly random scene after another, doubly so for the dream sequences.
  • Fridge Brilliance:
    • A common interpretation of this movie is that it is, at least in part, a modern retelling of the Book of Job from the Old Testament. How does Job end? God appears to him in the form of a whirlwind. Doubles as Viewers Are Geniuses.
    • As discussed here, excluding the prologue, the first and second half of the film are reflections of one another.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Michael Stuhlbarg listening to the story about the goy's teeth. Four years later he appeared in Blue Jasmine, where he plays a creepy dentist who claims to be able to understand people by their teeth.
  • Nightmare Fuel:
    • Despite the absence of random acts of Ax-Crazy violence, this is still arguably one of the scariest of the Coens' films due to its thematic implications: bad things happening to good people for no reason, and the suggestion of a God who is either both merciless and utterly incomprehensible or who doesn't exist at all.
    • To a lesser extent, the prologue. Though nothing openly frightening happens, it's left a lot of viewers very uneasy.
  • One-Scene Wonder: The extras casting in this film is absolutely pitch-perfect, and most of the minor characters only flit in for a scene and then disappear, so there are a lot of these.
  • The Woobie: Larry
    • To a certain degree, Arthur