Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Michelle Williams, Samantha Morton, Hope Davis and Jennifer Jason Leigh, Synecdoche New York is the brilliantly underrated 2008 film from director Charlie Kaufman.
With the cult following of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (and numerous other great films,) I’m surprised that Kaufman still remains an unknown name in the mainstream film world (perhaps for the better.) Still, it troubles me that films like this fall under the radar.
For one, this movie contains a superb cast (even Michelle Williams was cast accurately for her part,) and with all the talk about “art-films” these days, for some reason Synecdoche remains on the shelf. Perhaps it’s because there’s more to this film than meets the eye.
For one, this is a movie that you shouldn’t (or rather can’t) take your eyes off of. Set in New York (as the backdrop for the world,) this is the story of Caden Cotard, a man whose life suddenly starts to fall apart due to a mysterious disease and various failed relationships. From the start we sense that this is a man who feels immense pressure yet hides it well; pressure to create something that the world will remember him by; pressure increasing by the second as his health diminishes.
Through a somewhat confusing timeline, we travel with Caden through the last years of his life, where he attempts to create a play that directly mirrors his own life. But of course, life continues in reality much faster than he can create it on stage, and soon reality and artistic vision start to overlap in a dizzying yet intoxicating manner, until Caden, and the majority of people in his world, meet death.
Through the eyes of Caden and his acquaintances, we witness things that we’ve all experienced in our own lives, or will experience: love, heartbreak, divorce, fear, lust, failure, confusion, estrangement, shame… and sometimes delirium.
Supposedly this film was based on a play Kaufman himself wrote, which is interesting nonetheless, however, those that didn’t enjoy this film must either see it two more times or simply accept that this entire movie is a metaphor for life and the human race as we know it.
Although I’m typically one to point out specific elements of symbolism and foreshadowing in movies, I think this is one that people should watch and discover on their own.
I recommend this film to anyone and everyone.