On the plane back from New Zealand I watched a few things but one stood out to me. I watched it from beginning to end and don't recall enjoying a single moment of it. I endured in the hope that there would be a reveal of some description; that in some way the pieces would fall into place and make the whole mess make sense.

I'm still baffled.

It's like the polar opposite of the TV show We Are Klang. That's hilarious, idiotic, and best described as a kid's TV show for adults. Every time I watch it I wonder how they managed to convince anyone to fund it but love that they did.

Its budget wasn't $20 million (2007) though.

This thing has a running time of 123 minutes, or about $16,000 per minute, and in my mind is best described by Moe from The Simpsons.


The thing in question is Synecdoche, New York, in which we follow Caden Cotard, a theatre director of no discernible charisma. He has a wife and a daughter and is generally miserable. Actually that pretty much describes the state of everyone in the film. No one is happy, no one ever becomes happy. The amount of misery they endure varies but basically the film is a study in people having depressing lives as inexplicable weirdness happens around them.

A character buys a house that's on fire. It remains on fire for the entire film. This is never explained and isn't a hallucination. Okay then. Po-mo.

Caden receives a MacArthur Fellowship which would, in theory, provide him with $500,000 over the course of five years. Or $25,000 per quarter. In the film this funding is open-ended and vastly in excess of that.

To try to do something with his life he tries to put on a play set in a copy of New York, in a pocket dimension. It's supposed to be a warehouse but the size makes no sense whatsoever. Yay, postmodernism.

He then spends the rest of his life feebly trying to create something in this warehouse with a small town's worth of actors with no real direction, massive scope creep, and a few different relationships.

That first wife leaves him taking his daughter with her. Said daughter grows up and has a life that could be described as equal parts Bohemian and harrowing. Caden doesn't appear to be able to understand how time works and so is constantly baffled by how she's now an adult. I don't mean in a "they grow up so fast" way - no, I mean in a very literal sense. He thinks she's still four after having been gone for six years. Oh and as a dying adult she thinks he's gay. Apparently she never actually looked into his life despite clearly being traumatised by what she was told about him. The scenes with her are uncomfortable, depressing, and ultimately nonsensical.

His other daughter from his second marriage takes no part in the narrative except to be referred to by the wrong name a couple of times when talking about his first daughter.

Oh and a mysterious illness is slowly killing him in annoying but mundane ways. I suppose this is supposed to signify decay and spiralling out of control in various ways but at this stage it's hard to really know what, if anything, this film is trying to say. In that respect it's a metaphor for itself, I guess.

Here's a trailer that makes it seem like there's anything like a coherent narrative:



Did I mention that eventually he swaps places with the actress he's hired to play a cleaner and she starts running the show? Yeah, so that happens.

I'd sum it up as "Here's a bunch of stuff that happens. You'll find it a bit emotionally disturbing. Don't expect resolution because there's none coming."

I'm mostly writing this to get this irritation out of my head and onto digital paper. It's pretentious guff that is most certainly not "extremely funny". It has nothing to say, just like the play Caden attempts, and much like that ultimately collapses under its own weight.


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