Synecdoche, New York

Director: Charlie Kaufman
Year Released: 2008
Rating: 3.5

Kaufman's mournful cry to the heavens: why must it be like this? Depressive theater director Philip Seymour Hoffman has everything go wrong for him: his modern artist wife (Catherine Keener) leaves him and takes his daughter with her, he's in therapy, he doesn't feel he's made a work of art that 'lasts' and his body is eroding on him in seemingly unstoppable ways - his luck changes, however, with the MacArthur Grant, which enables him to work out his dream project, a simulation of 'real-life' (complete with replica apartments, streets, dumpsters and appliances) in a warehouse. This is really chilling and - at the very least - kind of brilliant: he almost seems to be saying that just as we can never be able to 'direct' others and their interaction with 'us,' so we are also unable to control the way our own bodies betray us in the way they decay and malfunction. Taking this one step further, art itself seems to be a rather unsuitable medium to 'correct' this, as both artistic visions presented, big and small - Hoffman's massive theatrical endeavor (which keeps metastasizing) versus Keener's thumbnail-sized paintings (which keep shrinking) - are both lacking in their ability to capture the 'essence' of life. The relentlessly morbid tone, grandiose ideas and Kaufman's tendency to over-write (it's always made clear that the writer/director himself is behind all this - he never makes an attempt to 'hide' in any way) threaten to derail the picture, but I think the concept is strong enough to overpower the (very minor) flaws. More so than the Wachowskis, I think Kaufman not only read but had a decent understanding of the writings of Jean Baudrillard (specifically Simulacra and Simulation).