SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK
Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Samantha Morton
PLOT: Prompted by his life falling apart, New York theater director Caden (Hoffman) is asking himself the big questions and goes as far as mounting a mammoth play that emulates his life to get the answers.
CRITIQUE: I'm still on the fence in terms of Charlie Kaufman's much heralded previous film (well he wrote the screenplay) THE ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND. I liked some of it, sometimes it went too far in the "quirky" department for my liking and as whole... well it's a celluloid trip that I have to and want to see again to be able to make a firm opinion on. On the other hand, I'm pretty crystal clear as to where I stand with Kaufman's latest film (and directorial debut) SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK. Let the pain begin!
Where's Chuck Norris when you need him! Some of his round-house kick cheese would've went down well after this one! Damn!What a rough way to end my CANNES FILM FESTIVAL film run! Not that the movie was awful by any means, but morose and filled to the brim with so much hopelessness that I almost drowned in it? YES! And the fact that I've been at the "asking myself the big questions" stage in terms of my own life now of late made this downbeat, existential two by four whack me across the head even harder. SYNECDOCHE NEW YORK was a grimly shot (with a poignant yet uber sad score by Jon Brion backing its images up to boot) exercise in "what is life" that tags us with film director Caden as his relationship collapses, his health takes a toll and basically everything that he "his" self destructs.
For the first hour or so, I was immensely engaged by the "idealism-less" looks at existence and relationships that this film was taking. Moreover, I related to the lead character (brilliantly played by the always affable Phillip Seymour Hoffman), fell in love with his new romantic interest (Samantha Morton was beyond adorable) and enjoyed the well placed cynical humor spread throughout (Hope Davis was a hoot here and Tom Noonan stole the show!). Thought provoking, downbeat and actually accurate (in my opinion) in its varied dissections of the human condition, SYNECDOCHE NEW YORK was taking me through the ringer with no apologies. I actually teared up like a man-child a couple of times; don't tell anybody...
At about an hour and half in though the film started to lose its grasp on reality and its characters, hence its grasp on me. Things got a little too out there (with parallel realities, symbolism and a double down on ambiguity surfacing) and the result was that I lost my emotional investment in most of it (I wasn't the only one - lots of walk-outs happened at my screening). So all I had left was witnessing this flick which started with so much promise, crumble under its own weight of self indulgence, pretentiousness and the worst sin of all; not knowing when to end! To be honest, I almost left the theatre myself late in the game; because I was sick of being dicked around and had a feeling that the movie had said all it had to say. But I stayed (figured I had lasted this long, might as well) and alas I was right. The flick kept going and going, becoming more and more incomprehensible and full of itself while re-integrating its "life sucks" message until the bitter end. It had nothing left to say.
So on a whole, if SYNECDOCHE would've ended at about the one hour and half mark, you would've had a huge fan right here. But it didn't and it wound up spitting on all the quality it had established by getting WAYYYYY too ahead of itself. With that said, inspired by the film, my buddy and I sat on a beach after our screening and talked about our lives, relationships, what is true, what is manufactured...what not. I was being brutally honest with myself as to myself. Not fun. Any film that manages to get that out of me can't be all that bad. See it for yourself and find out where you stand!
-- Rating: 6/10