Quickcard Review Synecdoche, New York
Directed by: Charlie Kaufman Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Samantha Morton, Catherine Keener, Michelle Williams Time: 2 hrs 4 mins Rating: R
Plot: It's pronounced (sin-neck-doe-key) if you're unsure. But unsure just might be the point. Caden (Hoffman) attempts to create the most ambitious play ever imagined at the exact time his life begins to unravel.
Who’s It For? Let me just take a line from the film to explain who it's for ... "Knowing that you don't know is the first essential step to knowing, you know?" This is an impressionist film. It is what you make it. That will turn away most, but with Kaufman directing, you are guaranteed to see something original.
It's a movie about a play within a play. Or something like that. And be warned, I definitely didn't get comedy out of this. Kaufman plays with timelines and reality while Caden attempts to figure out if he should be with his wife (Keener), his box office lady (Morton) or his leading lady (Williams).
Morton shines the most and is quite the chameleon. Here, she's a full-figured beauty (think "Mad Men") who lives in a burning house. I assume this means she's lying in her bed, but now she has to make it ... but of course, I can't be sure.
It's a film that can be dissected for hours, with nice additions from Hope Davis, Diane Wiest and Emily Watson. Even Kaufman joins the cast as a set designer. Film students will flock. Personally though, I just don't know what to do with the mild introduction of Sammy Barnathan (Tom Noonan) who has been following Caden secretly for 20 years.
I will not doubt the brilliant acting of Hoffman, and I will not doubt the brilliant mind of Kaufman ... funny, they rhyme. But with any impressionist piece of work, your feelings overtake you. I was left with Caden slowly suffocating me with his despair. Don't see this film if you're depressed. My hunch is that Hoffman found this role demanding and exhausting ... me too. I hope Kaufman keeps pushing the envelope though, because with these risks comes a chance of him making a film that will feel like he's crafting something just for you (pretty sure he wrote The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind for me).
Final Score: 4/10