.

Synecdoche, New York

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Samantha Morton, Michelle Williams, Catherine Keener, Emily Watson

Directed by Charlie Kaufman
Rolling Stone: star rating
5 2.5
Community: star rating
5 2.5 0
November 13, 2008

Does everything work in this mind-bender from Charlie Kaufman, the screenwriter of Being John Malkovich, Adaptation and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? No way. Synecdoche, New York is exhilarating and exasperating in equal doses. But Kaufman, making his directing debut, is focused on something you don't find at multiplexes overrun with chihuahuas and violent escapism: That would be a life of the mind. Kaufman wants to prove that intellectual ambition isn't dead at the movies. Godspeed.

Philip Seymour Hoffman creates a mesmerizing portrait of the artist as a young, old and middle-aged man. He plays Caden Cotard, a stage director struggling on the fringes in Schenectady, New York. Ailments attack his body in ways that would appall Dennis Potter. His shrink (Hope Davis) despairs of him. His painter wife (Catherine Keener, first-rate as always) leaves for Berlin with their daughter and never returns.

Then a genius grant allows Caden to construct a huge theater piece in a warehouse in Manhattan. The subject is Caden's life, and he takes a lifetime to create it. The play is a synecdoche, a figure of speech that indicates a part standing in for the whole.

Are you with me? Even if you're not, stick with the movie. Kaufman provides juicy roles for his actors, including Michelle Williams, Dianne Wiest and Tom Noonan, who get caught in the time warp as art imitates something resembling existence. There's wit in the casting of Samantha Morton as Hazel, Caden's mistress, and Emily Watson (often mistaken for Morton) as the actress Caden hires to play Hazel. In the end, Kaufman's movie is too much of everything. But it's that rare bird in our debased pop culture that gives you something to chew on when you leave the theater besides where to go for dinner.

prev
Movie Review Main Next

ADD A COMMENT

Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...

COMMENTS

Sort by:
    Read More

    Movie Reviews

    More Reviews »
    Around the Web
    Powered By ZergNet
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.

    X

    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Nightshift”

    The Commodores | 1984

    The year after soul legends Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson died, songwriter Dennis Lambert asked members of the Commodores to give him a tape of ideas. "And the one from Walter Orange has this wonderful bass line," said co-writer Franne Golde. "Plus the lyric, 'Marvin, he was a friend of mine' ... Within 10 minutes, we had decided it should be something like a modern R&B version of 'Rock 'n' Roll Heaven,' and I just said, 'Nightshift.'" This tribute to the recently deceased musicians was the band's only hit without Lionel Richie, who had left for a solo career.

    More Song Stories entries »
    www.expandtheroom.com