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Synecdoche, New York - Movie PosterSYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK was written and directed by the extremely “different” Charlie Kaufman, and so you know you are in for something, well, “different” if you see this three-hour film.

Kaufman, of course, previously wrote the 1999 BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, the 2002 ADAPTATION, and the 2004 ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, to give you an idea of what you are in for: quirky, more quirky, and quirkiness to the max.

First of all, the title is a play on Schenectady, New York, where the story opens, but then it gets serious, because “synecdoche” is a figure of speech by which a part is put for the whole, the whole is put for a part, and so on in the dictionary definition until you come to “or the name of the material for the thing made (as ‘boards’ for ‘stage’).”

I can imagine that Kaufman read this definition once and came up with the idea for the film, because it is about one man’s attempt to put his whole life into a stage play. Wink wink. Nudge nudge. Know what I mean? Get it?

Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Caden Cotard, whose first name means “warrior” and whose last name signifies the psychological disorder whose sufferers imagine themselves to be dead. Get it?

In case you don’t, at one point he says, “It’s a play about death. Birth. Life. Family. It’s about everything.”

Caden is a small-town theater director with quirky ideas of his own.
the film opens, he is directing a production of DEATH OF A SALESMAN, a play about one man’s failure at the end of his life, and Caden casts young people to play Willy Loman and everyone else.

Then Caden wins the MacArthur Award “genius” grant, which gives him enough money he can do anything he wants with, and he starts working on his play “about everything.”

Meanwhile, his wife leaves him and takes their daughter to Berlin with her.

Caden is always having accidents, seeing doctors, and going to the hospital, and there are many funerals he attends.

He gets involved with other women, one of whom owns a house that is always burning–literally.

Years pass, he hires actors to play the actors playing himself and other people in his life. The End.

SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK shows that a magnificent failure is still a failure.

I’m Dan Culberson and this is “Hotshots.”