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Synecdoche, New York (2008)

September 13, 2009

3/10 Brain Aneurysms

Saw this after reading an article in the New York Times about how this movie put Benjamin Button to shame in regards to being 2008’s profound meditation on life and death. My ass it did.

Synecdoche, New York is about a small-time playwright going through a mid-life crisis as his marriage and his health begin deteriorating at an alarm rate with each passing day. Then one day, he gets a Genius Grant from the MacArthur Foundation (real thing) which provides him the funds to stage his grand opus that kinda sorta boils down to an epic, seemingly never-ending re-creation of his entire life. Sure, why not.

Two things to point out about this movie. First is that it’s written by Charlie Kaufman, and if you’ve ever seen anything written by Kaufman (like the brilliant, yet totally out there Being John Malkovich and Adaptation), then my plot synopsis really should be of no surprise. Guy likes to think outside the box.

The second thing to point out is that there is no place in New York called “Synecdoche”. And no, it’s not about Schenectady, New York either, which is a real place. The title actually serves as a kind of wildly confusing metaphor for the play the main character’s life, along with the play he stages. Kind of like the title on Pi, only Pi was awesome. Either way, I think we can all agree that it’s a crap title.

And in case your wondering, the definition of “synecdoche” is: 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. I didn’t get it either until my good buddy Fred explained it as, “Like calling your car your ‘wheels’ rather than just calling it your ‘car’, because the wheels are part of the car as a whole.” Fred is smart.

I can understand if some of you out there reading this are already scratching your heads as to what the hell is going on with this movie, and while I’m really trying to make it as clear as possible, imagine if you will what it was like trying to watch this movie. My good buddy Fred lasted a good half-hour or so before giving up, and I don’t blame him. 

The things Synecdoche, New York has going for it are that it’s very original, it’s jam packed with a cast of some of today’s best actors, all of whom are quite nice in their respective roles, and this beautiful little song plays at various times throughout the movie. But unfortunately, it just doesn’t come together the way I wanted it to. I love Charlie Kaufman and I love what he was trying to go for here, but god damn does it turn into one outrageously muddled mess. I was paying attention really hard, but I still have no idea what happened during the last half hour of this movie.

So for those of you who heard the same thing about this movie that I did but still haven’t taken the plunge, save yourself the trouble. This is one dark and bizarre movie that’s got too much going on for its own good, not to mention that it’s nowhere near as insightful as Benjamin Button.

Maybe next time, Charlie. Maybe next time.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Fred permalink
    September 13, 2009 5:10 pm

    Fred IS smart. Thanks for the shout out.

  2. imsaraspiegel permalink
    September 14, 2009 9:57 pm

    Fred is definitely smart. Well said.
    I saw that movie and was as confused as reading about it is. I understand the concept I think but its hard to grasp

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