Charlie Kaufman is undoubtedly one of the most creative minds at work today, as exemplified by such multilayered films as Adaptation, Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Those titles are some of the most unique properties released in the last ten years, so it's a bit surprising that his directorial debut, Synecdoche, New York, came and went with minimal fanfare.
Synecdoche, New York features a relatively unrecognizable cast led by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Supporting cast members include Catherine Keener, Michelle Williams, Samantha Morton and Hope Davis. In other words, there's no talent involved. At all.
Hoffman is once again perfect, and he doesn't have any easy role to play. Synecdoche, New York is about a slightly depressed but driven playwright who has been working on his play - about his life - for years. Unfortunately for him, as his life evolves, his play continues to evolve as well; he adds layers upon layers into the play to the point where he has actors playing actors playing actors. Reality and vision merge and overlap, and it's amazing that Kaufman could keep up with his own creation - let alone Hoffman and the rest of the cast.
Still, Kaufman is Kaufman, and Synecdoche, New York is one of the smartest, most unique pictures of 2008. The characters in Synecdoche, New York are incredibly complex and intriguing; even the smallest of roles are surprisingly complex. The acting is also terrific.
Still, it lacks some of the easily marketable elements that his other films had; in turn, it feels more subdued than his other pictures. And yet, it's another strong entry on Kaufman's resume and a remarkable directorial debut. Synecdoche, like his other movies, is not for everyone, but for those of you who like Kaufman's films, this one comes highly recommended.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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