Synecdoche, New York

Synecdoche, New York ★★½

2019 Watchlist Ranked
Scavenger Hunt 54 - 3/30 - #20 - Watch a movie that's considered meta.

"Everything is more complicated than you think."

As an avowed fan of nearly all of his work, giving a Charlie Kaufman film (and one he directed, no less) anything other than a glowing review feels downright wrong. Kaufman's idiosyncratic voice has resonated with and wowed me so much that I was genuinely stunned by the sheer magnitude of the misfire that is Synecdoche, New York.

This tale of a man facing an existential crisis in his mundane suburban life seems to be building toward something in the early going. Several bodily fluid-related lines and scenes later, the film incomprehensibly collapses into itself with a lame thud. Worst of all, none of its clear attempts to elicit pathos succeed. I felt just as cold at the start as I did when the credits began to roll. It's an overstuffed mess that aims to be poetic and layered but is ultimately a try-hard and pretentious bore. I couldn't wait for it to end.

I'm sure many out there have dissected this to no end and found all sorts of meaning in its myriad concepts. I just don't care. As a movie-watching experience, this is an epic catastrophe despite its terrific garnishes.
Speaking of the ingredients, those elements almost made this a worthwhile watch. First and foremost, the late and dearly missed Phillip Seymour Hoffman is wonderful as our lead. There is also some remarkable craft at work here on a technical level and some ideas, had they been given the license to bloom, would've surely been showstopping.

I'm feeling a good degree of melancholy after realizing that even one of the very best screenwriters of the century can yield a dud but I remain thankful for his creative bravura. I have no doubt there are Kaufman works on the horizon that I'll cherish as much as I have the rest of his oeuvre.

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