Synecdoche, New York

Synecdoche, New York ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

I cheated and read the screenplay before I saw this movie because I live in the Midwest and it didn't come to any local cinema. (We got Anomalisa but not this.) It's one of the best written things I've ever read. Hermetically sealed nightmare that reads like a steamroller over Caten Cotard.

He's surrounded by women. His wife, her friend, his daughter, the women in his play, a revival of Death And A Salesman but cast with younger actors. (Philip Seymour Hoffman would later go onto do Death And A Salesman with Mike Nichols, he in old age makeup).

Caden is sexless and devoid of much character (yes he fulfills a relationship with Claire (Michelle Williams), but that relationship is already home to a number of contradictions, including a child that never ages). His wife flees from him to be in Berlin with a bunch of artists (she is an artist of tiny paintings). Caden wants to create a great and epic work of art inside a warehouse where he recreates his life and everyone else in it.

Kaufman planned this as a horror movie with Spike Jonze to direct, and yes it's filled with green poop and a strange degeneracy disorder that Caden suffers, causing his body to fall apart. It's a horror of aging, sexlessness, becoming a different gender, cleaning, and of life continuing without him with his identity becoming worthless to those around him. Keener and Leigh are especially dismissive of his importance to the point where his wifes friend can flaunt her cleavage in front of his face, knowing that he's a complete non-entity. Imagine the horror of a persons masculinity becoming benign.

Then there's quite a lot to follow, with scenes that are some of the most cruel ideas a screenwriter could come up with to torture its lead character. Hoffman finds a way to subvert the intellectual horror and humanize each of these moments (I've not even mentioned his relationship with his daughter, or Samantha Mortons character who is the most important female in the film). There's so much detail in almost every corner, with hilarious running jokes (Little Winky may be my favorite).

Oh yes, Hope Davis is so incredibly funny. She gets the funniest of the material as his therapist who just doesn't care.

There's so much to unpack that a review couldn't do it justice without pages and pages of analysis. Spike was going to direct, and I think he would have made a much tighter movie, with better visuals. But instead we have Kaufman's telling of the story. It's probably much warmer than what Jonze would have done, and more emotional. I can't imagine crying at a Spike Jonze movie, but this made me well up over the pain that Cotard feels throughout. The insignificance of Caden. (Jon Brions score is the best of his career in my opinion, and he didn't even really want to work at the time he was asked to do it because he was exhausted)

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