A psychologically troubled novelty supplier is nudged towards a romance with an English woman, all the while being extorted by a phone-sex line run by a crooked mattress salesman, and purchasing stunning amounts of pudding.
Paul Thomas Anderson
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Theater director Caden Cotard is mounting a new play. Fresh off of a successful production of Death of a Salesman, he has traded in the suburban blue-hairs and regional theater of Schenectady for the cultured audiences and bright footlights of Broadway. Armed with a MacArthur grant and determined to create a piece of brutal realism and honesty, something into which he can put his whole self, he gathers an ensemble cast into a warehouse in Manhattan's theater district. He directs them in a celebration of the mundane, instructing each to live out their constructed lives in a small mock-up of the city outside. As the city inside the warehouse grows, Caden's own life veers wildly off the tracks. The shadow of his ex-wife Adele, a celebrated painter who left him years ago for Germany's art scene, sneers at him from every corner. Somewhere in Berlin, his daughter Olive is growing up under the questionable guidance of Adele's friend, Maria. He's helplessly driving his marriage to actress ... Written by
The article that Caden reads while in the doctor's waiting room, about his wife, is titled: "It's Good To Be Adele". The intro paragraph reads: "Six months ago, Adele was an under-appreciated housewife in Eastern New York. Stuck in a dead-end marriage to a slovenly ugly-face loser, Adele Lack had big dreams for her and her then four-year-old daughter, Olivia. That's when her paintings got small." See more »
Announcer on the radio at the very beginning says it's 22 September. The newspaper is dated in October, it's Christmas when the sinks smashes his forehead, New Year's on the ride home and March in the ophthalmologist's office. Kaufman afforded his film a dreamlike quality by playing with the representation of time throughout. See more »
Like others writing about this film, I find it difficult to explain fully the ways I was affected by Kaufman's work. He showed us truth, without the boundaries of reality, by exposing what we are and how we live it, in a vision of real life unencumbered by the artifice of narrative linearity. Sort of.
This is a tale of how life is, of what we are all doing in this ridiculous dance, of how shared the experience is, of how beautiful the pain is, of where we find ourselves at the end, which is also the middle and the beginning.
Told through the disjunctive story of a theater director who thinks he's dying (but then he is, as we are all, no?) and out of ideas, the film goes on a bendy, twisty, story-in-story path -- similar in some ways to a David Lynch film, except here there IS easily gleanable meaning in the twists -- that lets us see an entire life, many entire lives as they interweave and affect each other.
A short speech by a preacher at a funeral late in the movie sums up much of what the point is; I won't ruin it except to say that our lives can only be one thing, even though many opportunities present themselves, and it isn't worth sitting around and waiting.
Most importantly, I was so deeply moved by this story... that I don't know what more to say. It makes me want to contact everyone I know and unburden myself to them, tell them how much I love them, etc. Which I won't do, because doing that after a moving film is like drunk-dialing an ex. But it will help me live more fully and honestly. It showed me something real, and goddamnit, that's art.
It's not ordinary storytelling, but it's also not as much work as a Peter Greenaway -- so I recommend this to everyone, if they'll suspend their disbelief a little and leave their hearts open.
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