Combustible Celluloid
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With: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Tom Noonan, Michelle Williams, Samantha Morton, Hope Davis, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Emily Watson, Dianne Wiest, Lynn Cohen
Written by: Charlie Kaufman
Directed by: Charlie Kaufman
MPAA Rating: R for language and some sexual content/nudity
Running Time: 124
Date: 05/23/2008

Synecdoche, New York (2008)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Life as Theater, Theater as Life

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Screenwriter extraordinaire Charlie Kaufman makes his directorial debut with this kaleidoscopic head-trip scramble; it re-works ideas from Being John Malkovich (1999) and Adaptation (2002), but with their humor and wonder diluted. Philip Seymour Hoffman stars as Caden Cotard, a theater director who receives a major grant and proceeds to stage an enormous, decades-spanning project reflecting his own life. Characters come and go, and they all make it into his play (played by other actors). The film moves back and forth from realistic to surreal, and is grimly obsessed with disease, aging and sickness. It's all crazy enough to work for a while, but the 124 long minutes don't pass soon enough. Samantha Morton, Michelle Williams, Hope Davis and Catherine Keener play the various women in Caden's life.

DVD Details: Sony Pictures Classic's 2009 DVD comes with a making-of featurette (19 minutes), another brief featurette on the main character, a "blogger's roundtable" discussion, including my colleague Karina Longworth (way to go, Karina!), screen animations, an interview with Kaufman (30 minutes), and trailers. No commentary track.

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