Synecdoche, New York
Directed by Charlie Kaufman


A neurotic playwright tries to create a replica of his life.

Synecdoche “strives to be a work of greatness,” said Stephanie Zacharek in, but the effort shows. Charlie Kaufman, the Oscar-winning screenwriter behind Adaptation and Being John Malkovich, makes his directorial debut. Yet he “can’t get away from being the little man inside working the gears” and let the actors carry the show. The film introduces us to a theater director (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who embarks on a monumental production: To build a replica of his life, line by line, actor by actor, until fact and fiction blurs. As always, Kaufman aims for the poetic and profound, but too often his film congratulates itself for being “so technically elaborate and emotionally ambitious.” Kaufman freely plays with time, space, and narrative, said Todd McCarthy in Variety. But his “structural trickery” makes it difficult to sort out his big themes of “life-versus-art, life-as-art, or art-instead-of-life.” Kaufman has crammed “enough poetry for several great movies” into Synecdoche, said David Edelstein in New York. As puzzling as it can be, best just to “go with the free-associational flow” of it all.