Review: Cold Souls
PLOT: Paul Giamatti (playing Paul Giamatti) is having trouble separating himself from his latest role. When he sees an ad in a magazine for a strange new company that specializes in soul storage, he decides to have his soul removed as a possible solution. But when things dont go as planned, Paul decides its time to ask for his soul back. Unfortunately, someone swiped it and sent it to Russia
This film was reviewed as part of the Los Angeles Film Festival
REVIEW: Rarely has a films title said so much about its tone. Cold Souls is indeed a cold film. Its not necessarily dark, and it isnt so much bleak. Its just, well, frigid. Theres rarely a smile to be had (which doesnt mean there are tears), and the color palette is a mixture of muddled grays and soft blues. In the most literal sense possible, the film takes place in gloomy New York City and snowy Russia, so yeah, an icy piece of filmmaking no matter how you look at it.
The formula is something similar to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (second time in 2 days Ive referenced that film, I swear Ive seen others!). Like Jim Carrey in that film, Giamatti here is going through a bit of a psychological crisis. Luckily for him, theres a peculiar new company that specializes in the extraction and storage of human souls (that functions much like the mind erasing company in Eternal Sunshine). David Straithern, the lone smiley face in this film, plays the clueless doctor and inventor of the process, who tells Giamatti that soul extraction may be the solution to his problems. Of course, things dont really go as planned, and minus his soul, Giamatti just doesnt feel whole (duh). Meanwhile, as hes figuring his mess out, theres a pretty large side story involving a mysterious Russian girl named Nina (Dina Korzun). Shes a soul mule from Russia, a girl who transports souls to Straitherns agency illegally like drugs. If this is all sounding a bit weird, I havent even scratched the surface.
The film raises many interesting issues, stirring thoughts, and is written and directed by a French woman (Sophie Barthes in an ambitious debut), so you just know its going to be all kinds of artsy and moody. Sure enough this film is definitely both- and Im all about that. But the narrative shifts wildly in the third act once our heroes head to Russia, changing from existential drama into a strange mystery/romance, and for me that just didnt work.
When the film finally does conclude, there are no easy answers to the questions it has posed (there are no answers at all in fact) and the film isnt nearly as quirky or fun as the plot sounds. Thats my main complaint, and its a biggy: this thing is just BORING. I dont need any answers pounded into my head, I love figuring things out for myself, or forming my own opinion, or sparking a debate with a friend afterward. But I also expect to be entertained throughout, and in that respect, this film comes up a little short. Even Giamatti, a wonderfully dynamic and colorful actor even when hes at his darkest, plays this one close to the hip in a restrained, almost muted performance that while effective, is very unexciting to watch.
And yet, despite all of this, the film has an intriguing allure to it that begs a second viewing. Once it hits Netflix Ill give it another shot.
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