Synecdoche, New York (2008) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
288 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
One of the Most Deeply Affecting Movies I've Seen in a Long Time
evanston_dad29 November 2008
It's virtually impossible to summarize my feelings on "Synecdoche, New York." This astonishing brain teaser from the mind of Charlie Kaufman affected me deeply, probably more than any film I've yet seen this year. I can't say it's necessarily enjoyable, because it's full of uncomfortable, brave truths about what it means to be human, and it goes places most movies don't dare to. But watching it is a bracing experience, and it's encouraging to know that there are still filmmakers willing to use film as a means of challenging their audiences and picking at scabs that most people would prefer to remain solidly in place.

I can't begin to tell you what "Synecdoche, New York" means, and it wouldn't matter anyway, because I think it will mean different things to different people. A basic summary goes something like this: Philip Seymour Hoffman plays a morose, depressed theatre director who's convinced that fatal diseases are lurking around every blood vessel, and who decides to stage a monstrous, ambitious theatrical work that will leave him remembered after he dies. Soon, the work as he's staging it becomes confused with the life he's living, so that he finds himself directing a version of himself through a story that seems to be made up as it moves along.

If this sounds like an act of mental masturbation by a pretentious intellectual with too much time on his hands, rest assured: "Synecdoche, New York" is not one of THOSE films. I didn't become impatient with Kaufman or his characters, like I have with some of his previous projects. In fact, this film made me uneasy because of how much of it I DID relate to. The conclusions it draws are that we are all alone in this big universe, life doesn't necessarily have any meaning other than what one brings to it, and there is not a higher power who is going to make sure our passage through the world makes sense. It was a bit of a wake up call to hear these beliefs, beliefs that I happen to share, stated so boldly, for while I'm confident in what I believe, that confidence doesn't make the beliefs themselves any less scary.

But depressing and nihilistic as those beliefs might sound, the film is life affirming in its own way. It suggests that too many of us spend too much time trying to make sense of the world and not enough time living in it. We pull back in loneliness and fear when faced with things bigger than ourselves rather than turning to those who can actually help, namely the other human beings with whom we share our time on this planet.

"Synecdoche, New York" will not likely find a big audience, as most people will either not want to work at understanding it or won't like what it has to say. But if you're willing to go into it with an open mind, you might just find yourself amazed.

Grade: A+
399 out of 495 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A thought-provoking, challenging Kaufman experience.
commandercool8820 December 2008
syn⋅ec⋅do⋅che: a figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole or the whole for a part, the special for the general or the general for the special 'Synecdoche, New York' marks Charlie Kaufman's directorial debut. A monumental event on its own right. It is a maddening venture, a staggering project to face life's greatest of mysteries. Kaufman takes us on a soul-searching journey, one that he is taking every bit as much as we. It is a trip unlike any I have ever seen, and to say that I enjoyed it would be a very difficult thing to say. But 'Synecdoche' seems to be pointing towards something very profound, as undecipherable as it may appear. A flawed masterpiece, and a risk Kaufman seems willing to take.

There's nothing easy about 'Synecdoche', it is one of the most difficult films I've sat through. It's the sprawling story of one man's life, a tragic life. Philip Seymour Hoffman gives a harrowing performance as his character attempts to create a play of realism and honesty. And even as he dives head first into his work, his own life is in a perpetual state of free fall. A wife who leaves him, a daughter out of his life, relationships that crash and burn. His play, inside a warehouse where he has reconstructed New York City for people to live our their ordinary lives, becomes a fruitless and maddening descent into unhappiness and destruction.

What is 'Synecdoche' about? Is it one man's search for meaning in the midst of meaninglessness? That in order to appreciate the preciousness of life, we must accept the inherent chaos. Existence is what we make of it, and it is the choices we make that shape and define who we are and the lives we lead. Every choice brings with it a million different consequences, some seen and others that go unnoticed.

Kaufman tells us we are one in a world of many. We each play a starring role in the story of our life. People we meet every day, those we know and love. Never will we truly know them, their thoughts, or why they do what they do. And maybe it's not up to us to decipher what we will never understand. We must look inward, not to others, to find peace and insight.

If life is a play, the world is our stage. We only have this one shot, no second chances. We try to control our projectories, cast roles that need to be filled. In the end, what does it matter? Will the world miss us when we're gone? Life is what you make of it. 'Synecdoche, New York' dares to search for meaning, reconcile paradoxes to which there are no answers. But that doesn't keep Kaufman from giving it his best, as tedious and heart-wrenching as it may sometimes be.

More reviews:
99 out of 129 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
loveseedgems5 December 2008
To start, let's make it clear that this movie will not be for everyone; I don't think any form of authentic art is. There is no flaw in this truth or in the people who do or do not find themselves moved by the art in question- it just is.

I do believe there are people who more intuitively and naturally reflect inward, on death, on life- the meanings of all these things; it is a natural state for them. And I believe there are people as equally blessed and cursed to not think very deeply on these matters. I think this film will find a comfortable home in the hearts of the former. Now, of these "inner seekers"- I believe you have all variations of folks- those that seek deeply and find beauty, connection, and great joy. There are those seek deeply and find isolation, grief, and deep wells of sadness. There are those who find some semblance of balance between the two. I myself lean more towards connection, and subsequent joy because of that… I found this movie to be profoundly moving- on almost a primordial level- and I believe- in a hopeful way. Don't get me wrong, I cried many times during the movie and didn't want to leave the theater when the film was finished. I held back the wells of whatever it was that was welling up in me until I got to my car and then unloaded some body shaking tears. It wasn't sadness, though… it was… something else. I don't really know yet. One thing I do know is that all of Kaufman's films seem to affect me in this manner. After the initial viewing- I know distinctly how the movie has affected me emotionally- I can FEEL it. I am not capable of defining that feeling, or explaining why that feeling has erupted (it is clear to everyone that his plot and content are generally all over the board and it usually takes several viewings to pull any real intellectual analysis from them)- but I certainly am conscious of something new and fresh happening inside my emotional hard wiring. I find that a phenomenal feat in the face of a sea of art which relies on very standardized ways of pulling it's consumers in emotionally. Do you remember how you felt after Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? I remember walking out and feeling very hopeful about the nature of love- in a whole brand new way. Not in the contrived, standardized Sleepless in Seattle kind of way… not to judge that- but there is something amazing about an artist who can make you feel things you are not sure you've felt before. That, to me, is authentic art. This really isn't about valuing one thing more than another- just offering great respect to someone who has taken your mind and heart to places it hasn't been before. It is nice to visit those old comfortable haunts, but this… well, like all of Kaufman's films- will take you somewhere entirely new- if you are predisposed to that kind of wandering.
212 out of 298 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
to call it a disappointment might almost be a compliment, but I dare you to see it
MisterWhiplash8 November 2008
Note: This works MUCH better on a repeat viewing, practically a masterpiece, and one of the perfectly sad comedies ever made... though the last ten minutes is a slog (perhaps intentionally, as it's near the end of the tunnel... but it's still unbearable).

Over the course of my teenage years I've seen Being John Malkovich through Eternal Sunshine (those two the M-word, masterpieces, with Adaptation and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind near-great, and Human Nature a fun minor work), and he's always given something to chew on for the brain. He's an incredible wit, maybe too incredible, like something that could combust with the amount of ideas and ruminations and skill at defining what's important to us as people and what we want out of art. Synecdoche, New York could be seen as his life-summation of what concerns him as a writer. And to call it art is simple, because it is: it is, alongside the something like Inland Empire, the most challenging work to come out of American cinema. To say that either one is flawed may come as something as a given, but for Kaufman it's somewhat more troubling.

This is a big film of ideas, crucial, life-affirming (or life-damning) thoughts about love and death and loss and forgiveness and, essentially, the process of trying to recreate and recreate and recreate this. But at the same time the intellect to engage full-tilt by Kaufman the writer, the director couldn't engage me as a viewer emotionally - at least at first. This changed on a second viewing - I'm reminded of Woody Allen's assertion on multiple viewings of 2001 that Kubrick was much ahead of him on what he was doing - but on a first impression I have to wonder, with everything going for Kaufman the satirist, the original, the sad dramatist, what the movie's audience really is. Like the play that is rehearsed for decades that Cotard never brings to his audience, what can one take away from Synecdoche, New York as far as connecting with the characters, or just Cotard?

Maybe it reveals something about me just talking about this; indeed this is probably the film of the season, if not just the year (Dark Knight fanatics take note), that you will want to talk about after it ends. As far as puzzling works of art go it's great for a good argument, especially if one is familiar with how Kaufman's work has been leading up to this point. It's not exactly that the film is ever so confusing that one will want to walk out - there is a logic, in a sense, to the life imitating art imitating life imitating art etc etc aspect that makes sense.

When Kaufman, as director, makes his film this time about as hopeful as Franz Kafka rewatching the Zapruder film on a loop, even the scenes and moments that *do* feel somewhat powerful emotionally (i.e. Hoffman seeing his daughter in a nudie-booth, or the final scene on the bed with Hoffman and Morton old and in bed with the house, once again, on fire) don't hit their mark - again, at least at first. It's almost as if seeing the film again it becomes deeper, more resonant; like any work of art at another point in one's life, it could change, and if one gives it the chance it does.

Certainly the cast makes it worthwhile to watch: Hoffman is what he is, brilliant at transforming physically as age goes by as Caden Cotard, and at delivering subtle moments of humor amid his health-decay; ditto in her own right to Morton, who ranges from bubbly and lustful to anrgy and dejected (Michelle Williams, too, shows this range); even a bit part by Dianne Wiest is appreciated. They all help to give life to what is a big, somber meditation on (quoting Douglas Adams) Life, the Universe, and Everything.

And yet, expressing my (initial) disappointment over the length (at 124 minutes it feels twice as long) or the music (did Kaufman order "kill-myself-piano-tunes-you'll-love off of ebay for this?) or the personal problem of connecting emotionally with some of the characters as they (intentionally) don't really grow, shouldn't, I hope, diminish recommending Synecdoche, New York for anyone who wants something to challenge them, provoke thought and discourse, to engage and disrupt brainwave patterns. Perhaps there should be some disappointment; like life, and the art pulled out of it with pliers, it's not always a pretty sight, especially near the end. But it is a unique journey I was glad to take, and I hope every few years or so to come back to it, and see if it changes me, or if I've changed, since seeing it last.
60 out of 81 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Kaufman's Most Ambitious Film
SeraphZero18 October 2008
I got to see a screening of this in Boston, and let me admit to the fact that I consider this film a masterpiece. It is a rare entry into the market: an ambitious film, a gamble that, sadly, makes me question how much success it could garner in the mainstream box-office.

Charlie Kaufman, however, is not a screenwriter/director who inherently aims his sights on the box-office or the mainstream (anybody who questions this has to question Being John Malkovich). Instead, his greatest strength is a boundless creativity and insight into the qualities of humanity, and Synecdoche, New York is no exception. Rather, it is the apex of Kaufman at his most insightful, his most ambitious, and (as his directorial debut) his most hauntingly beautiful.

The plot itself is a contradiction of simplicity and complexity: to say that it is about Philip Seymour Hoffman trying to put on a larger than life play is an accurate statement, yet it completely fails to capture what Synecdoche, New York tries to convey. It is not a conventional film, but instead it is ambitious: a mixture of conventional narrative and surrealist cinema, one where the beauty of the film does not solely lie upon the plot, but the way every minute quality of the film ties together to form the tapestry.

The actors all do their parts brilliantly. I am hard-pressed to find any performance that was weak or, for that matter, standard of the Hollywood formula. Hoffman is brilliant in a role that utilizes his physical and acting gifts, and he takes the character through the spectrum of its possibilities. All the other actors also performed brilliantly, although what struck me as wonderful about the acting choices are that the majority of the actors present are not "glamorized" for the screen. Rather, the blemishes, the age, and the imperfections that make them ordinary are ever present in the film, making Synecdoche, New York seem beautiful in a strange, "dirty" way. Much like a city, its majesty lies not in grungy street corners or clogged rain gutters, but in the whole image that is comprised of such small, necessary imperfections.

And that, ultimately, is why Synecdoche, New York is such an ambitious, beautiful film. It is not a perfectly crafted standard screenplay, nor a perfectly executed piece of cinema. At least, Kaufman's work is not perfect under the current criteria of modern cinema. Synecdoche, New York is a gamble; a mixture of images and music and dialogue and acting that follows Kaufman's heart and his meditations on several ideas: namely, those on life and death and the connections all around us. It is dark yet funny, evocative and haunting. It is perfect in being a work of art that tempts us to find explanation, yet ultimately needs none compared to the feelings they evoke in us.

Viewers who are looking to see the difference between "art" and "entertainment" need only see Synecdoche.
198 out of 291 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Brilliant and bizarre!
toologize11 October 2008
What a trip. You can't expect a conventional picture from Charlie Kaufman, but this was super weird! So weird that half the people left the theatre before the end, either confused or offended by what they saw. Poor Charlie witnessed the whole scene and I suspect it really got to him.

The film's very much Spike Jonze in style, but grander and more ambitious than Malkovich and Adaptation. The first hour is hilarious, next half an hour is still good and you're struggling not to lose threads, the last half an hour gets really messy and tends to drag a bit. It might be due to Charlie's inexperience as a director, or it might be intentional and a means to express one of the points of the film (futility and dragging of time), or the topics simply grew too difficult to deal with, but it seems to me that the last part could have been made a bit more compact for a stronger impression. Seven to ten minutes less would have helped, if that was possible.

Perhaps Jonze would have done a better job in terms of pacing and craftsmanship, but the content is still really strong. The film had been five years in the making and you can feel the issues that Kaufman wanted to address brimming over. Illness, death, transience, love, relationships, passion, devotion, art, theatre, identity, hope, so many topics dealt with in a painfully sincere way. You both laugh and get emotionally affected all the time along with being confused by the twists of the plot and the grotesqueness of the imagery. You get many 'this is so true' moments that you completely identify with and then you suddenly get struck by a completely surreal scene. The film certainly reinforced my impression of Kaufman as a bastard son of Woody Allen and Tom Stoppard.

The cast is wonderful. Philip Seymour Hoffman has to be singled out for his magnificent performance. I have never been much of a fan of his and I was somewhat bothered by the idea of him as a lead in the next Kaufman movie. I didn't think he had a presence for that, but did he prove me wrong! Appearing in virtually every scene, the man has carried this film on his shoulders. He has created a completely lovable and ludicrous character and conveyed Kaufman's ideas splendidly.

Catherine Keener is as fun and adorable as ever! As a fan, I was really overwhelmed by this experience. I saw it two nights in a row, and spent hours discussing it with friends. The film is a bit difficult to comprehend instantaneously and Kaufman himself insists it requires a second watching. It is an amazing picture, rarely thought-provoking, and I can't wait to see it for the third time.
167 out of 251 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
visionary, personal, deeply affecting
jim pyke19 December 2008
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.
81 out of 126 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Trapped in the simulacrum between life and death
Artimidor Federkiel6 November 2012
One thing right ahead: Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman's directorial debut is an extremely uncomfortable film. It is likely not to make much sense the first time around, that you are too busy taking it all in and your efforts to understand it get derailed. Many will end up repelled by the experience and don't feel the desire to return to it. Subsequent viewings however should help to value the gargantuan task Kaufman has undertaken and to look forward to further visits to that strange place called "Synecdoche". Make no mistake: This is no love story, much less a happy one, not a tale about someone succeeding or get rewarded by any kind of redemption. There are images which seem too trivial to be part of a cinematic masterpiece, and you'll wonder about the surreality of some scenes and the layers upon layers that stack up. But getting into the film and getting out of it again only can be accomplished with difficulty. And that's a good thing.

On the surface "Synecdoche" is about theater director Caden Cotard (understatedly played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) whose life more and more slips out of his hands and literally rushes by in the film's narrative. An unexpected award gives him the chance to attempt something big, and so he builds a simulacrum, a life-size replica of New York, casting people to play roles in it in order to replace the persons of his life. But the simulacrum is not enough, and while he tries everything and then some in his struggle to find a sure footing, a proof of his existence between life and death, he turns out to be nothing else than the ultimate victim of his limitations. Caden's story is about the loss of himself in the imitations he created, yet miraculously this sad life eventually becomes part of something larger by just fading away. For watchers will notice a deliberately designed circular structure of the film... One could even argue that Caden might just be a character in a film, and longing for a life outside. Up to you! Make sure to watch "Synecdoche" more than once. And maybe at some point you'll learn to smile along with this postmodern masterpiece.
10 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Simulation Of Simulacra
Julian LaVerdiere2 November 2008
In a fit of pretentious grad-school psychobabble I once sarcastically meta-critiqued a fellows students sculpture as being a "simulation of a simulacra" Now looking back at it... I don't think I knew what I was talking about, or why having crafted a "simulation of a simulacra" would have been a bad thing?

After seeing synecdoche new york, I think I now have a tangible example for that expression... and this film is going down as one of my all time favorites! Kaufman & Hoffman are perfect doppelgangers! They certainly complement each other better than Jim Carry, Nicolas Cage or John Malcovich did. Kaufman has illustrated his self-reflexive neurosis in a dark comedic way that has more angst and gravitas than Woody Allen or Michel Gondry. The film was so existential and dark I swear I wanted to cry at the end but was too perplexed. He portrays his life as a play within a play and has created actors to play him self and others to play those playing himself, like a hall of mirrors. There are moments that become so interwoven that even Borges & Baudrillard would have a hard time keeping track of the characters. In certain respects the film reminded me of Shane Carruth's 2004 film Primer, in which the protagonist has multiplied himself into a stupor that he needed to write his own short term crib-notes to figure out what to do next. If you haven't yet seen it .. run don't walk.
87 out of 141 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A challenging mess
jdesando21 November 2008
"All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players . . ."

Synecdoche, New York, like the literary term in its title, might stand for all our lives as director Caden Cotard (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) attempts a gigantic stage construction of to depict his tumultuous life. Hamlet 2 it is not—it's a serious attempt by cerebral and creative writer Charlie Kaufman to deal with the muses and mistakes of a life worth noticing, in this case where Caden has won a MacArthur.

Caden eventually creates a discursive and massive stage play peopled by ex lovers who help him try to gain meaning out of a sometimes bleak Brecht or Beckett landscape. Kaufman takes us into and out of time and place, characters and ideas, so that to survive the viewing, we must allow him to digress and symbolize to distraction. The recurring motif of a house on the brink of burning down signifies the nearness of insanity and even death.

The specter of Death overshadows all else and serves as a catalyst for the artist's grand opus. It also allows him to muse on the meaning of life and the challenges of art, the former leaning toward a pantheistic notion that we are all made up of the people we have loved. Shakespeare's notion of the world as stage is more appropriate here than ever.

Artistically Kaufman is more in David Lynch land than anywhere else; I'm comfortable with that although the producers should not wait for the profits to roll in anytime soon—it's a challenging mess.

Caden Cotard: "I know how to do it now. There are nearly thirteen million people in the world. None of those people is an extra. They're all the leads of their own stories. They have to be given their due."
66 out of 105 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Meet my friend, Paranoia
Warning: Spoilers
"Synecdoche, New York" expands on the basic subject themes of all Kaufman's work, but mostly on "Adaptation". And it makes "Adaptation" look like an exercise for kids compared to this.

It's one of the best hypochondriac's film, one of the best films on struggling with paranoia and, in the end, being defeated. It brought in my mind some of Ingmar Bergman's characters and, of course, Woody Allen's, but without the liberating sense of humor. Liberating for the characters, that is. Here there is no salvation for the protagonist- just like in Bergman's case.

The film flirts with being a bit pretentious, although it surely pokes fun at nearly all the intellectual blah-blah and clichés one sees all around the art world. So, I guess it rather saves itself that accusation. If it only was 15 minutes shorter, then I wouldn't know what to nag about.

It seems that Charlie Kaufman was not afraid to challenge his hip followers, did a difficult to appreciate movie, dark, that really makes your stomach and your brain hurt with with over-activity.

It's a great film.
112 out of 186 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Jiminy Christmas, this thing sucks.
MBunge26 August 2010
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is like being forced to watch a very ugly naked man take a very, very, very long nap. At the beginning, it's boring and a little odd but there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with it. As it goes on, however, the boredom turns to frustration as you just want to look away. Then the frustration turns to disgust as every crooked, misshapen aspect imprints itself on your eyes. The disgust shifts into anger at why someone is doing this to you. Finally, the anger dissolves into a bitter, sarcastic resignation that you just have to sit through this inane thing until it's over and you can do something, anything better with your time.

Synecdoche, New York is a bunch of surrealistic blather about mortality, control, identity, the creative impulse and I'm sure a bunch of other high minded concepts that the folks who like this joke of a film would be happy to go on and on and on about. Those fans will insistently tell people like me who loathe this movie that we just "don't get it". The actual reason I didn't enjoy viewing writer/director Charlie Kaufman disappear up his own butt with this self-indulgent, masturbatory tripe isn't that I don't get it. It's that I don't care, because nothing in Synecdoche, New York is rooted in anything real or substantive or insightful.

This fever dream of a story revolves around pudgy Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a guy with a bad haircut who's the director of an undefined theater group. By undefined, I mean it's never clear if he's leading a community theater, a student group, some way-way-way-way-off Broadway production or what. Cotard is also in a desiccated husk of a marriage with Adele (Catherine Keener), an artist who creates paintings the size of stamps. After the movie wastes time giving Caden a lot of obviously metaphorical medical problems, Adle leaves him to go to Berlin and takes their daughter Olive (Sadie Goldstein) with her. Caden then gets a MacArthur "genius grant" and uses the money to buy a gigantic warehouse and stage a play that mimic/recreates his own life and the lives of hundreds or thousands of other people. He then spends decades rehearsing that play while a lot of other nonsensical stuff happens, like a guy who inexplicably followed Caden for years showing up to take on the role of Caden in the play.

There's also an unconsummated love affair with a woman who lives in a burning house (incompetent metaphor alert!), a consummated one-night stand when Caden is so old he looks like Hugh Hefner having sex with one of his girlfriends one last time before she turns 30 and he loses interest, an intentionally bizarre tangent where Caden's daughter becomes a tattooed lesbian with a terminal disease and an even more intentionally bizarre subplot where Caden begins playing the role in both real life and his play of a cleaning lady named Ellen who works for Adele. When Dianne Wiest shows up at the end of the movie playing an actress who first takes on the cleaning lady role and then replaces Caden as himself in the enormous warehouse play, all you can do is wave the white flag of surrender to the labored, narcissistic eccentricities of Charlie Kaufman.

There are a few moments when this film doesn't suck and they're all due to the talented and skillful cast. Their work is even more impressive because they might as well have been reading out of a Lithuanian phone book as acting out the meaningless plot, characterization or dialog of Synecdoche, New York. Emily Watson also takes her top off.

Some people may enjoy the sort of deliberately contrived strangeness on display here. I think that when anything can happen in a story, nothing that does happen can have any significance or impact. If it had been revealed at the end of this movie that Caden Cotard was a robot, a hermaphrodite or even his own daughter, it would have made just as much sense as everything else in the film. There's literally NOTHING that would seem wrong, out of place or discordant if it had been stuck in a scene. Caden could have been gang raped by sentient aardvarks, the role of Adele could have been played by an orange tree or the guys from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure could have shown up and I wouldn't have blinked an eye.

If that sounds like the sort of thing you'd like, you're welcome to it.
20 out of 29 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Eternal Exploration of the Meaningful Life
allisonalmodovar3 October 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Rating: A, 98/100, 10/10 Charlie Kaufman explores the depression of Caden Cotard, a playwright/ hypochondriac (Philip Seymour Hoffman). It all stems from his wife (Catherine Keener), but he knows and the audience knows that she is not the cause of all his problems, although she is quite unsettling.

We are introduced to Hazel (Samantha Morton), a sweet distraction from his decaying family life. However, his sense of loyalty stands in the way of anything meaningful happening with her.

As he grows older, Caden becomes acutely aware of the things that are missing from his life. His focus is on himself, but in his myopic state he cannot identify the problem. So he comes up with the best solution he can. He'll make a play of his life. And in so doing, maybe he'll find out what went wrong. Maybe he'll find out who he is. Maybe he'll only continue to destroy his life.

Sammy, the actor who plays Caden in the play, seems to overtake Caden's life and becomes more like Caden than Caden himself could ever be. Lines of fantasy and reality blur as Sammy makes creative choices about the character of Caden that Caden disagrees with. Then, as if that weren't enough, the role mutates to the point where actress Millicent Weems (Dianne Wiest) takes over the role. She becomes Caden's doppelgänger, taking control of Caden's life, when he is unable to cope.

The film starts in October, 2005 and continues over forty years into the future. Nothing much changes in the world around the characters. The only thing that is constant is time, spinning out of control. When his grown up daughter, Olive, falsely accuses him of ruining her life, her perception totally skewed, Caden begs to be forgiven in what is a very moving scene.

Not to be overlooked is Hope Davis' psychotherapist character. She plays the straight guy, nodding, asking how Caden feels. Oh it feels bad? Good! Her collection of self-help books (all written by her) don't help Caden solve his problems. They are only false remedies that Caden tries, in effort to satisfy him in his life. Caden either projects his health problems onto her, or she has problems of her own (a grotesque blister on her toe that mirrors the boils on Caden's legs).

Emily Watson plays an actress that is portraying Hazel's character. To me, she and Samantha Morton are like the same person, the same actress. I only saw their similarities. However, apparently, Charlie Kaufman cast them because of their differences. Also, the characters are supposed to be extremely different. But at first, the overwhelming similarities are often confounding. Emily Watson takes over Hazel's character and acts in ways Hazel would never act, just as Sammy and Millicent overstepped their bounds with the Caden character.

What is moving about this movie? Certainly Caden's connection with his daughter, Olive. Certainly his affection for Hazel, the closest thing he has to a soulmate. Yet he always manages to screw things up with her, no matter what. Also, death is explored in this movie, the idea that we're all going to die one day. That everyone is the main character of their own story. That we all have choices.

Synecdoche, New York is a gross and weird movie too, different from anything that you'll see this year. That's ultimately why I love it. It attempts to show the truth through all the seemingly unimportant details, yet they are tied together in a nice bow without the movie seeming too perfect. It's offensive to many, the way life is shown, yet I laughed at the things I should have been shocked by.

After this film, it almost doesn't make any sense to see any movie by anyone except for Charlie Kaufman. No one has more sense of oneself (and everyone else) and yet no one is more lost and wandering (and boy, I thought I was bad!). Kudos to Kaufman for succeeding yet again, when he could have taken the easy way out and written something more simplistic or less gut-wrenching.
44 out of 71 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Life itself
Peter Downey11 January 2015
Charlie Kauffman's Synecdoche, New York feels impenetrable, abstract, and removed yet I was moved to tears by it all. Why? It felt "brutally honest".

Set in Schenectady, New York, the film follows Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a neurotic theatre director, as his life disintegrates. As things slip away Caden wins the MacArthur fellowship, and vows to create an original play, a work of "brutal honesty". Caden, however, lives in a bubble of his own thoughts, removing himself from his loveless marriage, making connections with those around him cold and awkward, and constantly he is searching for lost time. In his play we see Caden, examine the regrets of his life, and reflect intensely on what he should've said versus what actually happened or what he believed to have happened.

Kauffman handles Caden with a great deal of intimacy, allowing for a connection where there should be none, as Caden is so self-absorbed. Camera angles for Caden are nearly always close or portrait, any transitioning shots or establishing shots are also almost exclusively from Caden's point of view. The cinematography and set design mixes magical realism into the movie and gives a dream like quality to everything.

After plot and direction, things like acting and pacing become a bit harder to judge. How do you critique an actor that seems to be playing himself? If the pacing is designed to depict life, is the pacing of life intangible? Or is the medium of film unable to fully encapsulate the "pace" of life? This is all designed to force a personal response, and I can see people having varying opinions on this film, from boring to engaging and pretentious to being exact.

Tone of the film would be generally be considered depressing, but to me there is something life affirming about it, as if to say I am not the only one he feels the human condition so intensely. The closing scene of the film reminds me of a rich life lived, and the absence of this richness is stark and shocking.

Thematically there are so many ideas explored in this film. "Ce n'est pas une pipe" to how much can artist influence interpretations of his art to what is the human condition and how do you live a good life. Over a week later and I am still trying to warp my opinion to fit round the film.

A comic I read recently describes most how the film feels to me: "Life and death have been in love for longer than words can describe. Life sends countless gifts to death, and death keeps them forever."
6 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Director takes great concept, applies surrealism pro forma, achieves little.
howardfelstead26 May 2009
Warning: Spoilers
When I saw the trailer for Synecdoche New York I was interested, intrigued and excited. A few hours later, after seeing the film itself, I left the cinema not just disappointed after what seemed like several hours of slow-moving, uninspiring, uninteresting, boring viewing; I was actually annoyed. Annoyed at the money and time I had parted with to sit through such an ultimately pointless experience.

The concept behind this film is a grand and exciting one. Theatre director, Caden Cotard, attempts to recreate the world he lives in with a vast cast of actors in a hopeless struggle to make sense of the misfortunes in his life and analyse his own inadequacies. With such a great inspiration and a stellar cast you would think Kaufman would have to try very hard to go wrong, but somewhere along the way he does.

In Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind and Being John Malkovich Kaufman showed a great skill for combining strange plots with creative casting and a quirky comic edge to create profound and moving films riddled with symbolism. It is because of these films that his brand of surrealism has become popular and very successful. Synecdoche New York should and could have featured alongside these works as triumphs of the avant-garde. It does not. Kaufman seemed to spend so much energy applying surrealist quirks to the plot that he neglected the fundamental aspects of his film. I never connected with the protagonist or cared enough about his tragically unhappy life to find his story interesting or moving.

Had this film lived up to its promising roots I would have spent my time longing for Caden to find some sort of happy conclusion to his struggle. I would have felt sympathy and sorrow when he finally dies. As it was I spent my time longing for any conclusion so I could leave. I felt pity and in the end I was relieved when he died.

This may have been forgivable had the message behind the film said something innovative and original. Instead the message behind this waste of time of a motion picture was not to waste your precious life analysing your misfortunes. I wasted two hours of my life watching a highly analytical film effectively telling me not to waste my time because analysis is fruitless! Frankly that message is pointless, hypocritical and uninspired. I may as well have painted "carpe diem" on a wall and watched it dry.

Moreover, having decided to pass on this unhelpful message, Kaufman's incessant tangents of unrelated surrealism were more distracting and confusing than quirky or interesting. Where there was symbolism to be found I was usually so uninterested that it only served to detract from the core meaning of the film.

Maybe I have missed the point or lacked the patience to fully appreciate this film. I have asked myself this several times since seeing it, especially since so many other reviewers seemed to enjoy and admire Kaufman's creation. But no matter how much I reconsider the film I always come to the same conclusion: I wish it had been better. I wish I still had my money. I wish I could get those two hours back.

My advice: do not watch Synecdoche New York. Certainly do not pay to watch it. And at all costs avoid trying to pronounce the word Synecdoche!
34 out of 55 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
I get it, the ideas, laid all out, but jeeze, pour me a cup of coffee while you are at it.
jay_hovah70320 December 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Please note: I will keep my spoilers to one paragraph that will be easily seen. Please read my review until that point if you want to hear a perspective that did not love the film.

Synecdoche, NY is a film that, in theory, sounds great, but when shown to an audience ends up dull, patronizing, and repetitive. The ultimate flaw of the movie is the director and the incoherent story telling that takes place. I LOVE Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, and Charlie Kaufman, so I was very excited to sit down a movie involving all three. PSH and Catherine Keener shine, but Kaufman's directing is atrocious.

I'm sorry folks, but this movie is simply too confusing to be enjoyed. The idea of the movie is great, but when played out...ugh, it just really shouldn't have been played out. I thought the movie was 4 hours instead of 2 and checked my watch a number of times to see when it would end. There are a number of movies on life and death that do not (literally) require a scene that comes 3/4 of the way through explaining what the hell you have been watching for the last hour and a half.

I blame this on the directing and it being the debut of Charlie Kaufman as such. He was too close to the material and therefore couldn't tell what needed to be done to make the movie understandable, let alone enjoyable.

Kaufman attempts to weave an epic tale of a (sick?) theater director named Caden that takes us through his entire life. In the final act of his life, the last 40 years, he builds a replica of New York city to work through the issues he has through his life with, gulp, women. Sounds interesting enough, right? It would be if we were ever shown this overarching narrative. Instead we are shown scenes that put together, resemble this topic, but really just confuse the hell out of the viewer.


The movie was frustrating, to say the least. I'm not a lazy film viewer, but this one used tricks instead of good direction to tell the story. It was confusing for the sake of confusing, and quirky for the sake of being quirky.

For starters, is Caden sick? Of what? Is he terminally ill? My initial impression of the movie was that he was terminally ill given him urinating blood, being frail, having blemishes on his face, and his wife "fantasizing" about him dying so she can move on. But then why is he the last to die? I spent half the movie thinking that in the last scene we would figure out he was already dead because of the initial impression of how sick he was. But he lived! Longer than anyone else! Unfortunately, I think this was bad direction and missing scenes. It is the job of the director to explain whats going on in the movie and Kaufman either wasn't up to task or didn't recognize it because he wrote the story.

Next, why is the house Hazel purchased on fire? Not only is this stupid, it's never explained. Sure someone here is probably going to chew me a new one because I don't understand metaphors, but here's where I see a problem. The director tried to blend fantasy and reality, but then made everything that occurred "real." Having a house that was on fire makes no sense given that even the marriage dream sequence really happened. You can't ask me to suspend reality then punish me for doing so, which the movie did quite often.

Caden wins a "Macarthur grant" or some fellowship or something. Nowhere does the movie stipulate that this fake grant will allow a man to never produce another play in his life (except his weird 40 year opus that no one gets to enjoy) or have to support himself financially in any meaningful way again. I'd believe a million dollars, tops. How long would that last in New York City? Hmmm. Three years for one person living. But to refurbish an entire warehouse into a replica of the city as well as support the staff and himself until death? COME ON. Kaufman should recognize that this is just utterly ludicrous to believe we should take this "genius grant" at face value for not working for 40 years? At least try to explain it with a line or two of dialogue. Christ, you've gone on and on about every other imaginable topic that 2 sentences wouldn't kill you.

The time sequencing requires someone to explain what's happening near the end of the movie. That Caden couldn't handle time appropriately and is why there were jumps in years that were not consistent or formulaic. One scene moves the story forward a year. The next, 10 years. But wait, I thought Caden had AIDS, shouldn't he be dead by now? Move the scene to the beginning of the movie! I could go on and on: why would some freak follow Caden around for 17 years? How did Caden have his daughters diary although she left years before she could have written any of it when he was standing in the attic of his old home? All of it put into one movie just makes it...stupid. The last insult was the worst: Caden dies last!!! How in the hell did he outlive everyone? He was pissing blood at the beginning and seeing 5 or 6 doctors a week.

I think Kaufman as a writer succeeds in leaps and bounds. But he shouldn't direct his own pieces because it was pretty clear he felt he didn't need to explain much of anything and expected the reader to sit back and allow it to happen. Better luck next time.
17 out of 25 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Dreadful, just awful
chersull_9918 December 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I should have guessed, when the first scene was of Adele wiping Clair's butt and showing the green colored poo to the camera, what I was in for. I love Charlie Kaufman...I love Eternal Sunshine, Being John Malkovich and Adaptation. But this movie was morose, self-indulgent and just plain boring.

I have a theory that sometimes film makers who have experienced some success create something just terrible, and realize it is terrible, but go through with it anyway, just to see how people react.

The sheep in Hollywood often tout these films as "groundbreaking", "courageous" or "cutting edge". They seem unwilling to admit to themselves that such a darling of the movie industry is capable of producing something that is, well, just bad. It's OK...and actually falls right into what Charlie Kaufman has taught us. We are all fallible, sometimes hugely and embarrassingly so. This is Synecdoche.

I'm in no way done loving Charlie Kaufman. I'm sure once he ups his dosage again, he'll produce something new that has some redeeming qualities. I'll be waiting and eager to forgive and forget.
47 out of 81 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
billy_kidd26 July 2009
Warning: Spoilers
The movie attempts to be deep by wallowing in shallowness, sprinkled with assorted clichés.

My interpretation is that the movie is about the last 2 hours of Cotard's boring and lonely existence. This is revealed at the end of the movie as a contrivance to make you think that maybe you missed something earlier in the movie. You might even consider watching the movie a second time to prove to yourself that you "got" it.

Main character is in the nebulous state between life and death, sleep and wakefulness, and in this dreamlike state, drags us through his remembrance of his life, distorted as it is.

As to the cliché's, well, you know, knowledge through suffering, creativity born from torment... too much Xanax makes him cry before during and maybe after sex.

I really am not interested in a main character's bowel movements, but this is a recurring motif in the movie.

The way time passes is also presented in the most primitive way, characters tell Cotard how much time has passed, that's because watching the movie itself wouldn't reveal this because nothing substantive ever happens. This is a very long and turgid production. At the end you feel as though you have wasted a couple hours, just like the main character wasted his life.

Not worth it.
60 out of 106 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Horrible, long, and fairly depressing
germanbini1 November 2010
Warning: Spoilers
The best thing I can say is that Philip Seymour Hoffman did a great job at acting in this hopeless and depressing mess. More than once I wished it was over, but I kept hoping it would get better. It was very convoluted and confusing. Is he dreaming? Is it really happening? How can that be true? Lots of jumping around on the time-line. Depressing and strange mixtures of subject matter - illness, breakups, fire, sex, death. The only part that made me feel comforted was seeing Dianne Wiest, an actress that I recognized from other, happier movies. The speech by the priest near the end was fairly moving (though morose), however, ultimately I felt this was an utter waste of 2 1/2 hours of my life. I wish I had a toothbrush that could scrub it out of my mind.
27 out of 46 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The Living Theater Of Charlie Kaufman
mjstellman24 October 2008
It was bound to happen. The brilliant writer of "Being John Malkovich", "Adaptation" and "Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind" made his directorial debut. Interesting, yes, without question, but self conscious to the point of distraction. Kaufman's mind with all its implications is a the center of this dream colored by illness and paranoia. Strange echoes of Julian Beck and Luis Bunuel made the experience rather gripping but I must confess I felt the need to run home and take a long shower after the film and read something funny, I selected Alan Bennet's "Uncommon Reader" It worked. I may even go again to see this Charlie Kaufman film with its unpronounceable title. I guess that even that is on purpose, so we all can refer to it as Charlie Kaufman's movie. Philip Seymour Hoffman is great, as usual. This time I also felt his body odor. Yuck! I remember Hoffman's dirty fingernails even when he was playing Truman Capote so I presume that is the actor's trait and not the character's, although, here, the filth that he exudes matches perfectly his story. Catherine Keener and Emily Watson are also superb but Samantha Morton, once again, got me completely. I will advise you to see it, at your own risk.
45 out of 84 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
If you want the gratuitous ugliness of life, do something unpleasant instead.
nonnymonster4 March 2009
Synecdoche, New York, ripped me off. It's not the dollar-fifty I paid at the discount theater to which I'm referring. See, generally speaking a director (or any kind of artist, for that matter) makes one of two choices. I feel Charlie Kaufman lied to me about the choice he made. Choice one is that the director makes a movie intended to make me happy. Pretty images, cute dialogue, and a happy ending to wrap it all up. You know, like most of the movies you and I and everyone likes. Choice two is the hard one. The artist portrays something ugly or unpleasant, but hopes that in so doing he will give me something I value: make me think or feel in a new way. Charlie Kaufman portrayed the less pleasant emotions of everyday people: loneliness, hopelessness, confusion, the dull fear of death. He did it using the intentionally confusing formula that seemed fresh and challenging in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Being John Malkovich, in which the viewer must tease out reality from fantasy. Now it just seems like busywork from a one trick pony. And he did it in ways that were intentionally unappealing. A few things, such as the anachronistic, dingy hospital scenes, I might like to describe as artfully ugly. Mostly I would describe this movie as gratuitously ugly. But the main problem with Kaufman's effort is that he thought making a movie unpleasant in unusual ways WAS the point. He forgot to give me anything to make me feel that the uncomfortable two-hour-four-minute journey I made with him was worth taking. The main character is a hypochondriac, and Kaufman portrayed this fear by showing me a whole bunch of tolerable-but-disgusting real and imagined scenes of his health and his body. I was tricked into believing that cringing through these ugly scenes would give me some sort of payoff in the end. Instead I was left with some vague, trite morals at the end…. All the world's a stage, or something. Loneliness sucks, or something. People are all different or all the same, or something. Don't be self-indulgent, or something. Everybody's confused about what they should do in life and wishes there were answers, or something. Admittedly, the above could be considered Underlying Themes. If kidnapped by sadistic high school English teachers, I could probably write a five-paragraph essay on the Underlying Themes in Synecdoche, New York. So I'm sure that nothing I can say could potentially make Kaufman believe that this wasn't a "deep" movie. But to the best of my knowledge, Kaufman isn't a philosopher and unless I'm missing something he didn't say anything new about these themes. Sure, it's hard to say anything that's truly new. But what a "deep" movie can do is provoke self-exploration. When I go to a movie that provokes me in a certain way, I find myself wanting to discuss those themes with my friends afterward, and they usually find themselves wanting to do the same. After watching Synecdoche, New York, my friend and I found ourselves simply wanting to purge ourselves of the images of Caden's blood, fecal matter, skin diseases, and gum surgery by talking about hair products. I guess if I wanted to defend this movie, I'd say it portrays the reality of how ugly life can be sometimes. But it doesn't add any wisdom to that dialogue, so I'd rather be reminded of the ugliness of life by doing something more productive. Like standing in the DMV line.
67 out of 131 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Auteur of 'Being John Malkovich' goes OTT
rowmorg10 August 2009
Warning: Spoilers
A grossly overlong and indulgent playing-out of a conceit (Dict. an elaborate, fanciful metaphor, esp. of a strained or far-fetched nature) might be highly satisfying for a self-obsessed director and his fans, but for those outside the circle it looks megalomaniac and lost. Of course, there's a certain grandeur in ignoring the box-office dictates of Hollywood, and Charlie Kaufman is to be commended for it, particularly for raising the finance, which presumably comes from accountancy write-offs. Being John Malkovich was an outstandingly weird film that worked according to its own rules. It was also short, and focused. Synecdoche is neither, and the mega-project of the mad theatre-director hero sprawls out into the cinema, crushing hope and emptying seats. The lesson of this film is that awards can easily go to creative people's heads and cause them never to work again, which is the fate of Philip Seymour Hoffman's character, Caden Cotard. Sadly, obsession, grandiosity, megalomania and hypochondria are not attractive qualities unless punctured by wit and irony, and Synecdoche does not have such characters to put it into perspective, so the film is just as overblown and barmy as its hero's insane project. One spark of light in the parade of pretentious boredom was watching Samantha Morton stripping naked, until I realised it was Emily Watson, but hey, that's all part of the mixed-up trip in this gargantuan mess of a movie.
19 out of 32 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Do Not See This Film!!!
rgrele9 April 2009
In all my 53 years I can honestly say is the worst movie that I have ever had the misfortune to watch. And I have seen a LOT of stinkers.

If you have ever had a weird dream where nothing makes any sense, awoke, wrote everything that you could remember about it down, waited until you were 99 years old, senile, on your deathbed, and for your last act on earth, made it into a screenplay, cast it with chimpanzees, had it directed by baboons, and filmed it.... It would make more sense than this movie.

This movie has made me insane.

There, I am insane now.
53 out of 108 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
See this film!!!!!
NightOwl05 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
The most exciting aspect of Synecdoche, New York is that Charlie Kaufman is attempting greatness. The only real criticism you could level at this movie is that Kaufman tries to do too much. One should never fault a filmmaker for too much ambition. This is a first film by an untested director. For a freshman effort it is absolutely stunning in it's bravery and refusal to placate a mediocre, consumer audience. This movie is unabashedly an art film first and an entertainment second. You must meet the work halfway and join Kaufman on his spiraling, absurdist journey.

In an era of artistic timidity this movie is like a cleansing breath of fresh air. Charlie Kaufman is not afraid to explore topics that most other filmmakers would rather not touch. I sense an almost Bunuel influence in Kaufman's obsession at pushing bodily decay in the audience's face. Make no mistake, this film is about mortality and the end of life. A light, date night at the movies this ain't! If you want to watch a true work of art that you can really engage with intellectually then you should definitely watch this picture.

When Charlie Kaufman introduced the film at the Toronto Film Festival he described it as a conversation between himself and the viewer. That description is very apt. The piece has the exhilarating feel of a late night college bull session. It is a movie about everything and is not afraid to ponder the big questions while still employing a great deal of subversive and wry humor. If you like movies that take real chances than you should watch this picture. If you enjoyed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Being John Malkovich, you will savor this film as Kaufman going for broke. This movie is like a cinematic Rorschach test.

To really enjoy this film you must have a high tolerance for metaphor and symbolism. Kaufman constantly plays with the narrative to bring forth subtext. This is a movie that cannot even be deciphered in one viewing. There is an accumulation of detail in this movie that is staggering. I defy the most eagle-eyed viewer to catch all the important details the first time they view it. This film is such a rich construction and the constantly roving eye of the camera mirrors the anxiety of the protagonist as well as the anxiousness of the viewer as one tries to take it all in.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman's minimalist performance as Caden Cotard will be unfairly derided in some circles as lazy. These unfortunate critics are not paying attention. Hoffman's character is so ground down by life that he barely has the energy to lift his head. His character is really just a fulcrum that other less neurotic characters spin around. The more Cotard tries to dramatize his life, the less sense it makes to him. Time ravages his body as he keeps trying to encapsulate the whole of his experience in a massive work of art. The whole movie is about an act of creation. Cotard's need to make sense of his life through art mirrors the audience's need to understand Kaufman's complex layers of symbolism. Kaufmann is doing the most important job of an artist. He is asking questions without providing the answers. It is left to the audience to figure out what, if any, grand statement is being made by the piece.

When the movie ended, the strongest feeling I came away with was one of melancholy tempered by a certain sense of hope as well. Kaufman is a secret romantic and that ultimately is what I love about him. As bleak and full of despair as things become within the narrative, the movie is ultimately comforting. The main character finds solace in another character that was not previously important to him. The final truth is that there is no truth. The fact that we die is what gives life meaning. As you get older everything is taken from you. Life is simply a transitory process. However, that transitory quality gives it urgency and meaning. There is real resonance to be found in our connections with one another.

I walked out of this picture in a sort of trance. It is one of the most important and exciting films to have been released this year. This is not a movie that you can like easily, but it is possibly a film that you will come to love. I know it is a film that I will watch many times in an attempt to catch all the small bits of nuance and detail. How wonderful and thrilling it is to discover a work of art that defies easy categorization. What you take from the piece may be entirely different from what I take from it. This fluidity of meaning is it's power and Kaufman's artistic triumph.
18 out of 32 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Probably the worst movie I've ever seen
Michael Vanier19 April 2009
I really wanted to like this movie. I loved "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" (it's one of my favorite movies of all time), and I've at least found Charlie Kaufman's other movies interesting, if not particularly moving. This one, though... wow. It's hard to know where to begin. This movie is so bad it makes me never want to watch another movie, or, alternatively, it makes me want to make a pile of my favorite movies and force myself to watch them for about a week straight to wash the stench of Synecdoche out of my mind. It's hard to even describe the ways in which this movie is bad, but maybe an analogy will do: it's like having a five-year-old child smear his feces all over your face for two hours, periodically interrupting the process to say "Isn't this neat?" with a big grin. There is nothing, literally nothing, to enjoy in this movie. Think about the ways that a movie can be bad. It can be horribly depressing for no particular reason and with no particular moral or worthwhile take-away message. It can be confusing, with a plot that is impossible to follow or make any kind of sense out of. Or it can be annoying, with lots of pseudo-clever gimmicks that don't work. Synecdoche manages to be all three kinds of bad all at once. The actors (all great talents) do what they can with the horrible material, but even they can't save it. I will spare you a plot summary, since it is very unlikely to shed any light on anything whatsoever. Suffice it to say that you probably won't know much more about what is going on in this film at the end than you did at the beginning, but you will be a lot more aggravated.

Here's what I think the real point of this movie is: life is precious. Every minute is important. You must live life to the fullest, because one day we will all be dead. And given that this is the case, please do not waste two hours of your precious existence watching this train wreck of a movie. Instead, read a book, go out with friends, fall in love, play with children or animals, spend some time on your favorite hobby, go for a walk in the park. Do _anything_ but watch this movie. Life is too important.

For my part, I will watch movies again. But I'm not sure that I'll ever subject myself to a Charlie Kaufman movie again.
30 out of 58 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews