'Synecdoche' an indulgent head-scratcher


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Synecdoche: a figure of speech in which a part is used to represent the whole or the whole for a part.

Confused? Bewildered? Scratching your head? Imagine how all three reactions would be magnified while watching a movie titled after that particular figure of speech.

"Synecdoche, New York" is a very difficult movie to describe plot-wise, for it is so incredibly complicated and layered that to do so is nearly impossible.  But suffice to say that it is about an unhappy and unwell theater director named Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his efforts launching a play that eventually requires building a replica of New York inside a warehouse.

With a superb cast of supporting characters including Catherine Keener as Caden's suffering wife Adele, Michelle Williams as an actress in his plays and Samantha Morton as long-time friend Hazel, this movie lacks nothing in terms of acting. Philip Seymour Hoffman might very well be one of the greatest living actors of our time, and his performance in this movie is no different. But acting is not the only aspect important in a movie.

At the helm of this "experience," with his directorial debut, is the brilliant Charlie Kaufman, the writer of "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and "Being John Malkovich." He has once again created a world that the audience can only hope to understand, and while this was attainable in his previous work, it is not so easily done in "Synecdoche." The first half is filled with bizarre but funny dialogue, but as Caden sinks into his own internal struggle and world, the movie becomes bogged down in the chaos and turmoil.

Movies such as this have the tendency to try extremely hard to be different. And while Kaufman's thought process is on a level all its own, it would have been nice for him to come down to the average person's level more often throughout "Synecdoche."

Because it's hard to understand, some people might assume "Synecdoche" is a work of genius. But I was left more annoyed than enlightened. When people do not understand something, they are very quick to pretend that they do in order to prove their intelligence. If you are looking to impress someone, take them to this movie and show off your comprehension, if you can.

But that is not to say that this movie was void of any meaning. In fact, it was the complete opposite. The dialogue was haunting, especially in the second half; Caden's realization that, "There are nearly 13 million people in the world. None of those people is an extra. They're all the leads of their own stories. They have to be given their due," is especially moving. And Caden's quest for the perfect title for his play is the perfect metaphor for a person's quest to find a title for his or herself in society and in life.

Not for everyone, "Synecdoche, New York" is, to say the least, an interesting film that fails on the most part to connect to the audience. This, unfortunately, is one of the main components of a worthwhile picture.

Rating: 2/5

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