If you’re looking for an in-da-couch kind of movie to turn your brain off, you’ll want to skip this one entirely. But if you’re in the mood to fire up a heavy head-high sativa, this is all you.
Every Charlie Kaufman movie will send you on a cerebral joy ride, but “Synecdoche, New York,” might be his crowning achievement. Written and directed by Kaufman, the movie is a trip into the complexity and expansiveness of the human mind … and you just might have to be high for it to change your life.
The movie follows Caden (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), a successful-if-underachieving playwright who is awarded a MacArthur “Genius” fellowship to produce his opus. Meanwhile, he is deserted by his artist wife (Catherine Keener) and young daughter, exacerbating his already troubling idiosyncrasies, psychosis and hypochondria.
The movie is unique in that it takes you through the realities of a man’s descent into madness, a journey into a mentally ill human brain through narrative that we normally can only access in theory or through scientific explanation.
The play that Caden produces is literally larger than life, expanding exponentially in terms of story and cast, an unending rehearsal process that lasts years and years, where actors are playing actors in a story within a story. Caden has something to say, a beauty and reality he is trying to access through art. Instead of narrowing in, he keeps expanding it to the point where the play becomes life itself. At the same time, he pursues love and sex, along with his lost wife and child, suffering through his genius and madness all along. The passing of time itself becomes fluid, unreliable and haunting.
The movie is full of metaphors – one character’s apartment that is inhabitable yet perpetually smoking and on fire. It’s full of soliloquies that speak to the nature of modern life. There are characters who carry a hard-to-decipher presence and meaning. All would impact a sober viewer. But, man, if you’re accessing that high part of your brain, the part that can open up to see and grasp webs of complexity and multidimensions, prepare to have it all blown apart.
— DGO staff