Synecdoche, New York review

Synecdoche, NY does not easily sink in. This review comes after a second viewing and I’m still not sure what I really think of it.

Charlie Kaufmann is a remarkable screenwriter with an amazing aptitude for almost unimaginable originality. But although Kaufman’s familiar blurred-reality concepts are as fresh, deep, and amusing as ever, the pieces don’t fit together in his directorial debut as coherently as they do in his brilliant collaborations with directors Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich and Adaptation) and Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in particular).

Kaufman has done a better job at directing than Gondry has at writing (with The Science of Sleep and Be Kind Rewind), but with a script as complex as Synecdoche, a more satisfying end result might have been achieved if it was placed in the hands of a more experienced, focused director from the outset.

It’s good, it’s worth seeing, and it’s worth seeing again, but it’s not the classic one might have hoped it would be. It is a film about frustration and confusion, but it’s also frustrating and confusing. Or frustrated and confused. Or both.

4 out of 5

22nd May 2009

Comments

This isn't playing anywhere near me. I really want to see it. I've heard a lot of people mirror your exact thoughts, and many after multiple viewings like yourself!

What sort of mindset were you in to watch it the first time. I'm going to expect to not understand anything, them see it a second time to take it in more.

I agree with you on the Gondry points. I was really disappointed with Be Kind Rewind, but will try and give it another watch eventually. Just re-watched The Science of Sleep and again wasn't impressed. Sure, it's got some quirky cardboard scenes, but mostly it is lacking. Shame.

trovster, 22nd May 2009

As a huge Charlie Kaufman fan, the first time I saw it I had the mindset of a child on Christmas morning. I had heard, though, that there had been struggles in editing and the original cut was really, really, really long, so I already suspected coherency might be a problem. Multiple viewings definitely help, if you've got the patience.

It's good to see it got a UK release at all (it looked like no-one was going to pick it up) but apparently it has only opened at 30 screens nationwide.

Patrick Griffiths, 23rd May 2009