“Synecdoche, New York” is an intriguing, thought-provoking drama about_______________________________________. (fill in the blank)

I’m formulating my ideas and processing my feelings about this work, and have chosen to do so before I research any reviews or analysis so that I can keep my thoughts as pure as possible. But artist and cultural activist Erykah Badu’s lyrics come to mind, “What good do your words do, if they can’t understand you?” Can art be too abstract for its own good?

This film reminded me of a well thought out play. It’s no secret that plays are generally thought to have more depth than movies. I believe this is because (among many things*) the generally short time span plays encompass as opposed to films, and therefore the audience in invited to experience the entire world of the piece infinitely more than with cinema. However, this film spans nearly 2 decades (I think). I still felt like I was watching Angles in America by Tony Kushner or perhaps In the Blood by Suzan-Lori Parks. That delightful heavy feeling you experience with a show like that, was felt while watching this film. I was so impressed.

Generally, plays tend to lean towards the abstract more than films. Synecdoche, New York was definitely abstract. In this work we follow a theatre director named Caden though several romantic and familial relationships as he attempts to understand himself, a goal he never achieves (or perhaps only slightly achieves by having his life completely manipulated by a theatre director playing himself). He is awarded a MacArthur Fellowship (“Genius Award”) and plans to create a huge production to tout his skills. He sets his pseudo-performance art style play in a warehouse and has a cast as large as the community of people he surrounds himself with. Let’s just say its a MASSIVE production. The play is never fully mounted (I think).

It’s not an easy film to describe. I recommend everyone see this thought-provoking film. What did I take away? A reinforced idea that life is obscure, and the relationships within are based on an innumerable amount of absurd details.  That happen to be fascinating because of what they may suggest about one another. (Why where the psychiatrist’s shoes so damaging to her feet and why did she ignore it? Why was Hazel’s house always on fire?) I also remember that life is not about the individual. Keeping this in mind should put ego, paranoia, anxiety, and selfishness in perspective.

It seemed that Caden (was he ever really sick? and was there anything significant about Olive’s green poop at the film’s start?) was unable to overcome the stress with directing his own life, though he was astute in directing actors. Eventually, an actor, playing Caden as a theatre director had to direct him in his everyday life until his death. Or had he become just another actor in the play?

This film will leave you with plenty of questions.

Footnote:
* films make more money and have the luxury of being as trivial as they want because they have a larger audience