Synecdoche, New York
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I doubt that anyone has ever accused screenwriter (and now director) Charlie Kaufman of being too transparent—or too simple. Kaufman’s movies (like Being John Malkovich and Adaptation.) tend to leave viewers with that disoriented, just-got-off-the-Tilt-a-Whirl feeling. And his latest, Synecdoche, New York, is no exception.

Synecdoche starts out simply enough. Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is a local theater director with an artist wife, Adele (Catherine Keener), and a young daughter, Olive (Sadie Goldstein). He also has a strange (and totally unhealthy) obsession with disease and death.

But, then again, Adele is obsessed with death, too—Caden’s death. So when it’s time for her to travel to Germany for an art exhibit, she decides to take Olive and leave Caden behind.

Left to wallow in his own obsessions, Caden begins overanalyzing his life—and the lives of those around him. And when he gets a prestigious theater grant, he uses it to rent a giant warehouse and put on an ongoing study of the people around him—a huge production with no audience and no title.

Synecdoche, New York is an impossible movie to explain. It’s so complex and over-the-top that, in the end, it’s almost impossible to really get, too. But I managed to get the gist of it. And somewhere, in the midst of the head-spinning complexity of it all, I found myself strangely entertained.

Though the story gets more perplexing as the minutes tick by, it’s filled with those A-ha! moments—when, even if just for a second, it all makes sense. It’s even insightful, in its own strange way. At other times, it’s just simply amusing.

Hoffman is just the guy for role of Caden—and he plays it with clueless honesty. As he begins to create his own world, he openly admits that he has no idea what he’s doing. All he knows is that he wants to create something that’s truthful and meaningful.

But while Synecdoche is both amusing and confusing, there’s one thing it’s definitely not: mainstream. It seems to wander aimlessly and go on for nearly forever. At times, it drags. And, at other times, you’ll have absolutely no idea what’s going on—or why. So it’s not one for the blockbuster crowd—or the chick flick crowd. If you enjoy Kaufman’s head-spinning work, you’ll enjoy this one, too. But the rest of you should consider yourself warned—because Synecdoche is one that only the art house crowd will truly enjoy.

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