Synecdoche, New York

Synecdoche, New York



There are a lot of unanswered questions about this bizarre movie. The first one is: how on earth did it ever get made to begin with? It is a film with a dumb name that no one can pronounce and a script that literally has no comprehensible meaning.

What brave studio executive decided: “THIS is just the sort of crazy cinema that we want to give our financial support to”? They would have had better luck investing all of their money in Washington Mutual and Ford Motors last year.

My guess is the only reason that the script for “Synecdoche, New York” wasn’t immediately tossed in the trash or forwarded to the nearest mental institution for psychological evaluation is that it was written by Charlie Kaufman.

Charlie Kaufman is arguably the most brilliant screenwriter of the past decade and definitely the most original.

He burst on the scene in 1999 with “Being John Malkovich,” an existentialist comedy about neurotic office workers on the 7 1/2th floor of a Manhattan skyscraper who stumble upon a mysterious portal. The portal leads directly into John Malkovich’s brain, where you get to experience life from the actor’s point of view for a few minutes, before being dropped off on the side of the New Jersey Turnpike.

The film is weird, obviously, but it’s also a smart, accessible drama. Kaufman was on a role. He turned out one amazing script after another, culminating in 2004’s “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” – the most insightful film ever made about the magic and madness of romantic relationships.

It was as if Kaufman had plucked a muse down from heaven to have all to himself. He seemed to have an inexhaustible spring of inspiration and the ability to channel his wild concepts into exquisitely crafted screenplays.

Charlie Kaufman’s muse has abandoned him. “Synecdoche, New York” – his directorial debut – is a train wreck.

This isn’t one of those movies that makes you debate the meaning with the person you saw it with. This film really has no discernable purpose or plot – just a series of absurd events that signify nothing.

Philip Seymour Hoffman stars as Caden Cotard, a small time theater director who receives a sizable grant that he is supposed to use for creative purposes. He decides to use the money to build a life-sized replica of his neighborhood inside an enormous warehouse. Caden hires actors to play real people, including himself and his loved ones.

That’s it. That’s the whole movie.

Kaufman does infuse the film with quirky little comic flourishes, like the character’s house that is perpetually on fire and the paintings that keep getting smaller and smaller – to the point where the art gallery has to hand out magnifying glasses at the door.

But a few chuckles do not make up for two hours of ponderous, self-indulgent nonsense.

“Synecdoche, New York” doesn’t even deserve a star rating like a regular movie. It is so perfectly ridiculous that I am giving it: ????