MV5BMjA0MjIyOTI3MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODM5NTY5MQ@@._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_AL_What’s it all about?

I don’t know where to start in trying to explain the plot (if there is such a thing) for this film, so let’s leave it to the kind people at IMDb:

A theatre director struggles with his work, and the women in his life, as he creates a life-size replica of New York City inside a warehouse as part of his new play.

Which is kind of what it’s about, but not really. It’s much much more weird than that.

Why did I want to watch it?

I honestly can’t remember. Part of me thought I must have seen something about it when I was reading up on Birdman but I actually borrowed it last summer *gulp* and it’s been kicking around since then so it’s either because someone recommended it or a Philip Seymour Hoffman completist thing. Or possibly both.

What did I think of it?

Well, where to start? Let’s start with the title, shall we? So, I had to look up ‘synecdoche’ to find out that it is:

a figure of speech in which a part is made to represent the whole or vice versa, as in England lost by six wickets (meaning ‘ the English cricket team’)

(On a side note, as a Scot I’m always irrationally pleased by explanations that talk about the English doing badly at stuff. Can’t help it, sorry, I’m easily amused). But that didn’t really help much.

So, we have Caden Cotard (great name) played by PSH himself, a theatre director with an artist wife and a small daughter and a successful production of Death of a Salesman and a bit of a passion for Hazel who works in the theatre box office, who is awarded a grant (for an unspecified amount but it must be enormous) to create an extraordinary work of art. At the same time he begins to suffer from all sorts of ailments, real or imaginary, difficult to tell.  Plus Sammy (Tom Noonan) is lurking in the background to apparently no purpose. And then Caden’s wife, Adele (Catherine Keener) scoots off to Berlin for an exhibition of her art and takes their daughter and that’s when it all kind of goes weird. Oh, and he also falls in love with his lead actress, Claire (Michelle Williams) and has a daughter with her, too.

The production that Caden develops ends up mirroring and then seemingly taking over his whole life, so we have actors playing versions of the characters (there are several Cadens and Hazels at once) in a set being built in this huge warehouse thing which seems to be turning into a replica of New York, and it’s difficult to tell what’s real and what’s imaginary, whether any of this is happening at all or if it’s wholly or partly a dream.   It’s pretty surreal in places, for example Hazel buys a house which is on fire, and it continues to be on fire for the whole of the film though it never actually burns down and everyone seems just happy to accept it (assuming they notice it at all). Caden himself loses track of time, thinking Adele has been gone a few weeks only to be told that it’s been 17 years.

And I’m sure this all represents something about the human condition but if it has a meaning then it was totally lost on me; for the first 30 minutes I thought I was going to hate it but for some reason decided to persevere, probably because of PSH who is incredibly sympathetic as a man who doesn’t seem to know what’s really going on himself. And parts of it were really quite touching and it had a fantastic cast and I have a feeling it was really very clever.


I didn’t dislike it, I just didn’t get it, really, though I suspect there are lots of people who think it’s wonderful. It’s that kind of movie. I suspect it makes slightly more sense on a second viewing, but I’m not sure I’m up to that.