A dark theater screen could reflect the cinematic depth of “Synecdoche, New York.” It seems the screenwriter, director, and assorted players involved in this existential mess had difficulty conveying their message to some audience members. Is the grand message that life is a meaningless run of days? If so, “He exists and then dies,” a fifteen-minute short film of antagonist Caden Cotard’s pathetic existence would be sufficient. Dragging himself through life, Cotard represents a veneer, not a multi-dimensional human. This repository of misery has insecurity and ailments, and his manifestations of illness lack explanation and true resolution. These medical punctuations promised some drama; however, Mr. Cotard’s symptoms mysteriously disappeared.
Without his symptoms, Cotard lacks any element of personality. Sadly, he is the least captivating of the characters. Amazingly, this dull protagonist receives a MacArthur “genius” grant without a strong rationale.
Actually, none of the individuals portrayed are elevated beyond a somewhat dull existence. Cotard’s first wife achieves fame, yet the viewer is not invited to see her life. Action revolves around Cotard’s self-absorption. Good films mold a connection between the characters in the film and those sitting in the theater. Viewers of this film can ask themselves, “Do we care about these people?”
A lack of concern for the characters logically follows a lack of plot, unless you consider a man’s obsession with promoting his own life story a suitable narrative. Perhaps this blank canvas of a film allows the viewer to paint a story of their choosing. Fortunately, most people probably have more interesting lives than Caden Cotard does.
A sad life translates into a depressing, anemic cinematic experience, providing no enjoyment. Films should educate, amuse, lead to contemplation, motivate; in essence, promote some response reflecting on substance. “Synecdoche, New York” only led to disgust reflecting on wasting two hours.