Friday, December 5, 2008

I'm pretty sure I enjoyed "Synecdoche, New York"...

I'm not positive, but I'm pretty sure that Synecdoche, New York was a brilliant movie. At least, what I understood, I liked, but there was a whole lot of the movie that reminded me of taking mind-altering chemicals. Not in a trippy way, but in the way that, while on drugs, even the most ordinary of things take on the quality of the surreal.

First off, the acting was universally amazing, starting with Philip Seymour Hoffman, who is just fucking great in this role. He anchors the film with his deeply flawed but deeply human Caden Cotard. I recognized people I know personally in him, and even saw myself there. I felt for the guy, even when he behaved in a pretty horrible manner. Hoffman is one of the few "great actors" that is not overrated.

Secondly, the huge amount of great roles for women was pretty awesome. I won't list how many amazing actresses were in this thing, but it was pretty incredible, and they all do great work. Special shout-outs must go to Samantha Morton (who is criminally underrated, actually) and Emily Watson.

What I liked about it where the qualities I understood. The interconnectedness of humanity; the way that one person is everyone. The overarching theme of accepting that we all will someday die, and coming to terms with the fact that from the day we're born, we're dying. The way that human relationships can lead to disappointment and regret.

But there's so much going on here, so many surreal touches and narrative twists, that it all begins to feel like there's simply too much going on to absorb. By the end of the film, I was convinced that it was the work of a genius, but a genius in need of guidance. There are a lot of elements that could have been cut from the film, not because they're bad per se, but because they simply cram too much into the piece and take the whole film off point, causing it to meander and feel unfocused.

Still, it's nice to have the complaint that a film tries to be too rich and complex and innovative. What a contrast to the empty, facile, vapid experiences films all too often offer up. I'm going to watch this film again, and maybe it will come together for me more. I hope so. It's a film that I really think is almost a masterpiece.

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