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Movie Review: Synecdoche, New York

Alternate Title: Theater of the Absurd

Story: Synecdoche (si-nek-duh-kee) is a riddle wrapped in an enigma or some other head scratching work of art and bullshit. The definition of synecdoche is as confusing as this muddled film. It is a figure of speech by which a part is put for the whole (as fifty sail for fifty ships), the whole for a part (as society for high society), the species for the genus (as cutthroat for assassin), the genus for the species (as a creature for a man), or the name of the material for the thing made (as boards for stage).

Written and directed by Charlie Kaufman we meet a middle aged man, Caden Cotard, who spends most of his time obsessed over his insignificance, health and mortality. He is a regional theater director who wins a 'genius' award (a MacArthur Grant) which allows him to finally create his life's meaningful work. Sadly it will take the rest of his life to figure out just what his life work is all about and we get to live that with him.

The film starts out very promising but as soon as Cotard's wife and little daughter leave him for fame and fortune in Europe the film starts to erode and dissemble. Characters come and go, people age in odd time flows and after a bit - I just did not care anymore.

I like writer Charlie Kaufman's work but this film was overstuffed, self-indulgent and simply not worth your time. Sorry Charlie.


Acting: Philip Seymour Hoffman as Caden Cotard, always gives a good performance but this time his character did not have the special essence that leaps off of the screen.Samantha Morton as Hazel, was delightful. Michelle Williams as Claire, was good too. Catherine Keener as wife Adele, did not get enough screen time for me. Emily Watson as Tammy, was wonderful as always. Dianne Wiest as Ellen Bascomb/Millicent Weems, came in late to the play,movie/lifework and I wanted more of her. Jennifer Jason Leigh as Maria, was her usual loony self. Hope Davis as the therapist was a hoot.

Trivia: The Cotard delusion or Cotard's syndrome, also known as nihilistic or negation delusion, is a rare neuropsychiatric disorder in which a person holds a delusional belief that he or she is dead, does not exist, is putrefying or has lost his/her blood or internal organs. Rarely, it can include delusions of immortality. Writer/director Charlie Kaufman is notorious for avoiding the press and in particular dislikes the idea of being interviewed on television. His first and only television interview was for Charlie Rose at the end of March 2004. 3 of the 5 movies he has penned so far are based around real people in fictional situations: Susan Orlean, John Laroche and himself in Adaptation. (2002), Chuck Barris in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002), John Malkovich in Being John Malkovich (1999) (obviously).

Predilection: I like Charlie Kaufman's work and will not give up on him.

Sex Spectrum: Some fumbling around.

Opening Titles: Simple titles superimposed over the opening sequence.

Visual Art: The attention to detail was the best part of the film.

Theater Audience: About 20 other confused theater goers.

Sappy Factor: 0

Quirky Meter: 3

Squirm Scale: If discussions about poop and other bodily functions and malfunctions are disturbing to you then the squirm factor will soar.

Drift Factor: I started looking at my watch at about an hour into the film.

Predictability Level: I did not have a clue where this was going.

Tissue Usage: 0

Oscar Worthy: No

Big Screen or Rental: If you are a Charlie Kaufman fan then the big screen is the way to go. You can also rent some of the better films he has written such as:Adaptation, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Length: Too long at a bit over two hours.