Thursday, January 7, 2016
Directed By: Duke Johnson & Charlie Kaufman
Written By: Charlie Kaufman
Based On Charlie Kaufman’s Radio Play Under the name: Francis Fragoli
Cinematography By: Joe Passerelli
Editor: Garret Elkins
Cast: (Voices of) David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tom Noonan
*Please note that some trivia and facts have been republished from imdb among other sources In this review*
Michael Stone, an author that specializes in customer service, is a man who is unable to interact deeply with other people. His low sensitivity to excitement, and his lack of interest made him a man with a repetitive life on his own perspective. But, when he went on a business trip, he met a stranger - an extraordinary stranger, which slowly became a cure for his negative view on life that possibly will change his mundane life. This film was crowd-funded through Kickstarter.com.
In earlier stages, this film was planned to be a only a short film, with 40 minutes in length.
The film doesn't work on a grand scale. As in the film much doesn't seem to really happen. Even though it is adventure in of itself. As the film like most Kaufman films are usually more an emotional adventure. That works in minutiae while also adding surreal elements to tell a simple human story.
Here working in stop motion animation that looks or represents the real world. Is one of the surreal components. As is using actor Tom Noonan to voice all the characters except for the two main ones. Females included is the other. As that aspect seems to represent how everyone else seems and sounds the same to the main character so that when he meets this female character he feels not only a genuine connection, but that she is different from the rest. Even if just meeting her for the first time and maintaining this connection.
The film offers many explanations depending how you read into them. As at first the film just has us watch him deal with the banalities of a business trip. While then getting the idea to try and hook-up with an ex who he comes to learn is emotionally fragile and damaged. Then having a chance encounter that turns into a kind of romance. Though he is our depressive protagonist. The main character while trying to appear human is a little hard to sympathize with. Though as the film goes along we are with him through the times and tribulations. That seem to be leading him to have a breakdown.
As he seeks some kind of emotional or physical connection to feel some kind of humanity and connection to ground him so that he doesn't feel constantly floating with no real direction.
Again this film like the usual Charlie Kaufman films written and or directed by him. Deal with human nature, death our intimacies and relationships. How we socialize. Examining it and using it at times to show the absurdities of life. While this film is funny at times. This has to be one of his least comedic films. As he finds a way to use humor and animation as a way to present his story and world view that seems a bit more depressing and open. As while there are scenes that take place vividly in many locations. The film sticks to one central one. Seeing it dealt with in a more animated form also humanizes the animated characters giving them a depth that feels new and refreshing that could have felt pardon the course using live action actors.
The film even has nudity and sex in it. So that it is meant more for adults. Especially with it's themes and tone.
Jennifer Jason Leigh stands out as the female lead voice of the film. Maybe she is just a breath of fresh air after listening to the same main two male actors for the first their of the film. She brings a lightness and femaninity to the film. She is a brig spit in this rather dreary tale.
In the film Michael stays at The Fregoli Hotel. The Fregoli Delusion is a rare syndrome in which the patient believes that multiple people are actually the same person in disguise. Tom Noonan voices every character in the film except David Thewlis' and Jennifer Jason Leigh's ones, similar to Charlie Kaufman's directing debut, SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK.
I can also see this film not being for some audiences as they will think it is too slow and too much talking. As not enough happens to keep their interest, but if you give the film a chance and really watch and Listen to it. I believe you will begin to follow and explore the film and it's characters.
The heartbreaking part of the film. Even though truthfully most of the film is sad is the ending.
When we and him realize that while making plans to run away together. She will eventually become familiar and be like everyone else around him and sound the same way. She is nothing but a nice distraction to put his hopes and dreams into, but will wake up to reality and resent her for the way he built her up and for her not living up to his dreams of her. For her to be normal and not special. Which in effect he wants to be, but doesn't feel that way an never will. Him coming to that realization. While she feels thrilled as she feels they had a honest connection and will see each other again. As even for those fleeting moments. It was the time when she felt most alive and excited, ever.
The song the Geisha doll sings at the end of the movie is a real Japanese children's song called "Momotaro" that tells the story of a boy sent from Heaven who journeys with a dog, a monkey and a pheasant to battle demons on a distant island.
As usual it seems to be an exploration of loneliness and love by Charlie Kaufman. Only here instead of saving the characters from it. It shows the inevitability of it. Also allowing to showcase it as a state of ind you feed into or prosper and find peace with
As again it seems like a quirky romantic tale, that takes on bigger and broader subjects while presenting, exploring, examining and then dissecting. Love, romance, lust the human condition. Happiness and depression as well as just middle age. Also the belief you are always supposed to feel happy and satisfied. How you can magnetize a fling or past relationship Into a lost love, the one who got away or a rebellious relationship. Building it up and making it more dramatic then it ever was. Always making yourself the hero or the victim and never the real problem.
It's a small take that feel identifiable. That is the power of the film. Is that it taps into an emotion and mindset that most of us have felt at one time or another. That shows that suffering and loneliness is universal. That many times a person can be saved and other times we have to wallow through it and find some kind of way to keep going or will yourself to a way of dealing and justifying ourselves.
It works as I find sometimes sad music works. Instead of bringing about sadness. It actually can perk people up, by showing or allowing them to not only go an opposite way, but realize one might be down, but things aren't as bad or that bad. As maybe the emotions and situations the song might bring up or showcase. The song Lisa sings to Michael was originally supposed to be Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On", but was changed to Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" when the "Titanic" theme song could not be licensed for the movie.
Co-director Duke Johnson stated it took six months for him to animate the sex scene because of technical reasons and making the scene realistic as opposed to comedic.
In an interview on "Fresh Air with Terry Gross," Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson explained that in the scene in which Michael is in a hotel room and he turns on the TV and starts to watch an old movie, the old movie on the TV is actually also an animated version of a real movie - an "exact replica" of a scene from the 1936 screwball comedy MY MAN GODFREY with Carole Lombard and William Powell.
Though another way of looking t the film it could be that the film is exploring a character who is so disassociated with the world and human connection despite being a public speaker. That he longs and dreams of meeting the perfect woman with which to connect with and when he meets a woman he puts all of his ideals for a partner onto her and then once he has her wakes up from the dream world he ha put himself into from the beginning of this trip and realizes he has built her up and that she isn’t his ideal and pretty much the same as all the others. Though now she has fallen for him and he in a sense realizes he used her due to a sexual frustration. He really took advantage of her. As now he has to come face to face with his mental imperfections and loneliness. Believing that this relationship or meeting a woman will save him from his mental state and problems, but once again finding he is still the same and feels the same. It’s just like his public speaking where he writes books that are business manuals that are useful in theory. Through examination and planning though not by actual interaction with people.
Just as his first girlfriend he looks up is a shell of a woman years after he met her. She has had a hard road since he left. That he feels sorry but still lustful because he can’t have her. As he thought she was once his ideal and came to the realization she wasn’t special to him and just left her. Believing it was her that he was better then her.this seems to be a recurring theme only now he did what was expected and thought he would be happy with wife and child and now finding himself stuck. When we come into the film it seems that this travel is out of the normal and outside of his normal day to day life. That he can confront himself after being left with himself rather then a day to day routine as well as probably being jet-lagged, his head is in a reality but also a dream world.
While the film isn't a favorite Charlie Kaufman project. It is an ambitious achievement. That shows a depth never really attempted in the medium.