Kurt Loder Reviews Charlie Kaufman's 'Synecdoche, New York'

Michelle Williams in 'Synecdoche, New York'FROM MTV.COM: Charlie Kaufman, a screenwriter for whom "brilliant" is the default adjective, is reported to have been displeased in the past with what some directors have done with his scripts (notably George Clooney, with "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind"). Now, with "Synecdoche, New York," Kaufman has directed one himself. The result is a picture that is (a) brilliant, in scattered parts, but also (b) a reminder that virtually every writer needs an editor.

The movie is about failure, decay and death, pretty much in that order. Oh, and confusion, possibly your own. It's presented as a comedy (well, of a Kaufmanian sort), but it's not exactly light on its feet. Philip Seymour Hoffman, usually such a fascinating actor to watch, is here sunk deep in shlubbiness as Caden Cotard, a mediocre director of plays stranded in the theatrical outback of Schenectady, New York. (Cotard's Syndrome — meaningfully, no doubt — is the psychiatric delusion that one is dead or rotting, or that the world no longer exists.) Caden is obsessed with disease and dying; his wife, Adele (the unconquerable Catherine Keener), thinks a lot about her husband dying, too, but in a hopeful way. Adele is an artist — she paints pictures so tiny they require headset magnification to make out what's going on in them. When she scores an exhibition of her work in Berlin, she leaves Caden behind but takes their 4-year-old daughter along. Not a good sign, but what can Caden do? As someone says at one point or another, "He lives in a half-world between stasis and anti-stasis."

Continue reading Kurt Loder's review of "Synecdoche, New York" at MTV.com.

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