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Synecdoche, New York (2008)

R  |   |  Comedy, Drama  |  21 November 2008 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 49,501 users   Metascore: 67/100
Reviews: 261 user | 239 critic | 34 from

A theatre director struggles with his work, and the women in his life, as he creates a life-size replica of New York City inside a warehouse as part of his new play.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Olive (4 years old)
Emergency Room Doctor
Like Clockwork Patient
Frank Girardeau ...


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 Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language and some sexual content/nudity | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:

| |  »




Release Date:

21 November 2008 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

I synekdohi tis Neas Yorkis  »

Box Office


$21,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$172,194 (USA) (24 October 2008)


£434,718 (UK) (5 June 2009)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The film was originally set to be directed by Spike Jonze, who chose to direct Where the Wild Things Are (2009) instead. See more »


In the scene where Caden is talking to Hazel directly after having talked to the doctor after his seizure, there is a dog in a box behind Hazel in her box office. Upon cutting to Caden, and then cutting back, the dog is gone. This is the remnants of the character "Squishy", from the original draft of the script. The almost-dead dog was found by Hazel after driving home from the premiere. She was saddened by Caden denying her, and she finds the dog, run over and bloody on the side of the road. She decides to keep it. This is the only scene where he is present, and his presence is not explained. See more »


Caden Cotard: I don't know what I'm doing.
See more »


Referenced in The Extra Man (2010) See more »


Written by Charlie Kaufman and Deanna Storey
Performed by Deanna Storey
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

visionary, personal, deeply affecting
19 December 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

One of the movies Synecdoche brought to mind for me was Bunuel's "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie" in which two different actresses play the same character with no explanation of any sort offered within the narrative.

It's always refreshing to me to see events in movies occur without the writer/director/actors seeming to feel any need to "explain it" to the viewer. As with (m)any other filmmakers who are genuinely engaged with film as a unique art form, it seems quite clear to me at least that Kaufman requires the spectator to meet him on his own wavelength.

This is what a significant portion of artists in any medium do: they take the constraints, conventions, and materials of their chosen form very seriously and explore their own perceptions, ideas, and emotions plying the tools of their medium on their own personal terms.

At the opposite end of this artistic spectrum is the sort of pandering manipulation of a Spielberg or the painter Thomas Kincaid. Their works are only "personal" in the sense that what is most prominently on display in their work is their own desperate personal need to have their intended message "understood" (and even experienced) by all spectators in exactly the same way, so that "the artist" can in turn feel his own personal worth has been validated by public and critical responses - "Hah, I must be a great artist, because I succeeded in making you think and feel the exact thing I wanted you to!"

I'll grant that this "spectrum" is a very broad one, and I won't discount the work of anyone along it, but that doesn't mean I have to enjoy things I see as technically accomplished hackwork. I don't, and never will.

I'll take an artist who refuses to telegraph his "statement" to me any day. I prefer works that wash over me, entrance me, and lead me down paths to new or long-buried thoughts and feelings.

I feel GREAT after having seen Synecdoche this evening. I laughed, I cried, and I see the world just a little differently now. I feel like a group of people I have never met (Kaufman and the others involved in making this wonderful movie) shared something with me that was very important to them. I wish I could thank them, because I think it takes a great deal of courage to share with others things that are so personally important in such an honest, unapologetic way.

I think it also takes a lot of courage for investors to throw millions of dollars at such a personal vision. It gives me hope for humanity that such a thing is possible.

The Day the Earth Stood Still gave me a tiny little glimmer of this sort of hope last weekend. But that movie was like a vending machine bag of chips compared to the full-course-meal of Synecdoche New York.

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