I, like many others, lie to myself daily. Not just for reassurance, but for motivation. A cling to hope for the bleak future that awaits. I’d never given this much thought, but after experiencing Synecdoche, New York for the first time, it was hard not to re-evaluate my own life. I’ve never seen a movie that has impacted me this strongly before, and to some degree it’s the fault of director Charlie Kaufman.
Synecdoche, New York, follows Caden Cotard, and his slow spiral into perfecting an impossible piece of work. I identified myself with the main character so much that it scared me. A personal favourite performer of mine, Philip Seymour Hoffman delivers a superb performance in his leading role as Caden. He’s a creative on the edge, bouncing off of a recent theatre productions success, and having been given a grant to pursue whichever artistic performance he chooses, begins a lifelong journey into perfecting his magnum opus.
Hoffman is a superb lead, but this is like no other performance he has ever given. He brings his expected style and flair to the role, able to jump from coy awkwardness to enraged and embittered in a moment’s notice. He did this well with Punch-Drunk Love but nowhere near the extent he manages in Synecdoche, New York. The supporting cast do very well in aiding him along with his role, with the likes of Samantha Morton, Michelle Williams, Catherine Keener and Jennifer Jason Leigh appearing sporadically to add some drama to the mix.
What surprises me most though is that this is the first feature film of director Charlie Kaufman. His writing has always had a depressing mixture to it, his work on Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is enough evidence to provide that, and with Synecdoche, New York, it feels even more feverish as he takes the reigns of the director’s chair. I’m a big fan of Kaufman’s style and direction. Anomalisa, Adaptation and Being John Malkovich are just a few of the many works I’d consider myself a fan of. But Synecdoche, New York is by far his best.
Some believe this to be self-indulgent or pretentious, but I didn’t get that feeling whatsoever throughout my time with Synecdoche, New York. Instead I received an unrelenting piece of film that hit too close to home, to the point where it made me actively uncomfortable. An artist struggling to make a name for himself, battling a project that has no end in sight. These thoughts have been eerily present throughout the movie and have dug their nails into my lifestyle in horrific fashion. Only great movies can have such a lasting impact.