A husband-and-wife team play detective, but not in the traditional sense. Instead, the happy duo helps others solve their existential issues, the kind that keep you up at night, wondering what it all means.
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Determined to solve the coincidence of seeing the same conspicuous stranger three times in a day, Albert hires a pair of existentialist detectives, who insist on spying on his everyday life while sharing their views on life and the nature of the universe. Written by
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[Blurry shot of tree]
[Albert's thoughts are voiced aloud to us, but not the audience on camera]
Mother-fucking, cocksucker, mother-fucking, shit-fucker, what am I doing?
[Albert walks out from behind tree, towards camera. As he gets closer to the camera the scene comes into focus]
What am I doing? I don't know what I'm doing. I'm doing the best that I can. I know that's all I can ask of myself. Is that good enough? Is my work doing any good? Is anybody paying attention? Is it ...
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Complaints about the writing and acting in this movie remind me of when, as an usher at a large church, I overheard the comments of the parishioners after the service. The minister had delivered a plea that we search our souls, but all these people could find to talk about was what she was wearing, or the style of her hair. If you walk into this movie thinking of yourself as a student in a film studies class (especially Hollywood films), you are going to find plenty to complain about.
But the real purpose of this movie is not to snag an Oscar, or even entertain you. And despite its attempts at 'explaining' life, it is not to convince you of any particular philosophy, either. It is, rather, to inveigle you to question your own motives for your behavior in life, and thus your basic presumptions about what you are doing here in the first place. Not a small task; the human psyche constructs many layers of defense, and it is in penetrating these defenses that psychologists spend most of their efforts. The humor in this movie helps break through some of the defenses.
Perhaps you believe you have no use for a psychologist. Brad Stand (Jude Law) didn't either, except to rationalize in his own mind his duplicitous self-serving behavior. But once 'existential detectives' Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin are on the case, there's no getting rid of them until all the dark corners have been exposed. That's both the bad news and the good news. Bad news because all his ploys are exploded. Good news, because now he can start to live a real life.
After all the trailing credits have rolled, what remains on the screen is the single line in the movie that sums it all up: 'How am I not myself?' A question asked throughout the ages, it is not meant to have an answer but, like a good koan, to create an infinitely deep inbox in your mind that you fill as you go through your days. e.e. cummings said it isn't easy to be nobody but yourself, but it's worth it. If you are more concerned about living a genuine life and less about cinematic perfection, this movie is, too.
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