Sunday, November 23, 2008

Synecdoche, New York

To be honest, I have no idea whether or not I liked Synecdoche, New York. On one side it is wildly original, fiercely acted and beautifully imaginative. On the other hand, it is almost completely incoherent, pointless and seemingly dull. Charlie Kaufman, the wondrously twisted mind behind the screenplays of Being John Malkovich, Adaptation., and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, directs his first feature which appears to be a little too weird for its own good. Philip Seymour Hoffman (consistently great) plays Caden, a mildly depressed, quick aging theatre director who gets a genius grant that lets him create whatever kind of production he wants. Caden decides to make a never-ending play featuring thousands of actors and sets as large as city blocks. Caden wants something real, something true to life. This explains why the actors play the people around them. For instance, Caden hires a man to play Caden. He hires a woman to play his love interest, a woman to pay his wife and so on. This creates something of a mess. The idea is terrific in a Kaufman sort of way, but the execution is flawed. I couldn’t understand, for instance, the ironcal signifigance of one of the main character’s houses always being on fire. The people in the film know it’s on fire, they acknowledge it frequently, yet they go on living in it. Sleeping, eating, having sex, and so on. Do we take it at face value? Of course not. But what then? Or why? I have no idea. To its benefit, Synecdoche, New York has a great, female friendly supporting cast including Samantha Morton, Catherine Keener, Michelle Williams (at her very best), Hope Davis, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Emily Watson and Diane Wiest. But even that many talented faces aren’t enough to comprehend what is happening. Synecdoche, New York will make you think, and it could very well inspire some post-film chatter, but mostly out of annoyance. Seeing this won’t do you any favors, skipping it may. C-

Listen to my podcast on Philip Seymour Hoffman

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