SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK
One of my favorite bands Rush once proclaimed in one of their songs Limelight: "All the world's indeed a stage and we are merely players, performers and portrayers."
In Charlie Kaufman's Synecdoche, New York, the stage is HUGE and set in a warehouse. It is a film about the life of Caden Cotard from 40 to 80. He is a theater director who sinks into loneliness. Throughout the film he struggle with several romantic relationships- Catherine Keener, Samantha Morton and Michelle Williams. One of the interesting things about a couple of the films of 2008 was that independent films shared themes of some of the bigger studio pictures. For example, the studio Twilight and the far superior foreign film Let the Right One In. Curious Case of Benjamin Button shared the theme of aging and mortality with Synecdoche. The film Synecdoche taught me more about the struggles growing old in its first half than Curious Case did in its entire running time.
Charlie Kaufman is easily my favorite screenwriter working in Hollywood today. He is unmatched when it comes to his inventiveness and originality. Being John Malkovich, Adaptation and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind are among some of the most original films to come out of the medium. This is a film that has divided audience and critics. Many of the films that have done that however, are the ones that you don't usually appreciate upon first viewing. It takes multiple viewings to appreciate it. Philip Seymour Hoffman's performance is quite good. He remains the one actor who has been in more films that I have proclaimed as a favorite of that particular year than any other actor in this decade. He certainly knows how to pick his projects wisely.
I'm not going to go into too much detail on the whole plot. Just go see it. If you like, good. If not, then it's not your thing. It took me two viewings to appreciate the layers and complexities of Charlie Kaufman's film. The types of film that touch on mortality and the struggle of just getting by in life engage me moreso than others. In the film Caden Cotard delivers what to me is the thesis of the film: "We are all hurtling towards death. Yet here we are for the moment, alive. Each of us knowing we're gonna die. Each of us secretly believing we won't." Caden Cotard puts on a production of epic proportions and later on in the film states the possibility of "What if everyone had a part in this play and nobody was just an extra." This type of dialogue helps the viewer gain a better understanding of the overall theme of the film. What the film did so well was show how fast life goes by.
Overall, I really loved this film. It is one I revisit because it is one of those that reveals more and more upon each viewing. The best film of last year and certainly one of the best of the decade.