Synecdoche, New York

 (1,315)
7.62 h 3 min2008X-RayR
From the writer of Adaptation, Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Theater director Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is mounting a new play. His life catering to suburban blue-hairs at the local regional theater in Schenectady, New York is looking bleak. His wife Adele (Catherine Keener) has left him to pursue her painting in Berlin, taking their young daught..
Directors
Charlie Kaufman
Starring
Philip Seymour HoffmanSamantha MortonMichelle Williams
Genres
ComedyDrama
Subtitles
English [CC]
Audio languages
English
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4.4 out of 5 stars

1315 global ratings

  1. 69% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 14% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 7% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 4% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 6% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

Crazy SvenReviewed in the United States on May 13, 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars
Art Imitates Life Imitates Death
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The first time I watched "Synecdoche, New York" was when it first came out on DVD and I had a really difficult time getting through it. The film is rather long, has an of intensely layered and complicated plot, a stunning visual complexity and requires the viewers full attention. The film demands a commitment from the viewer, well beyond most cinematic achievements. "Synecdoche" should be watched in a linear fashion, with no pauses or distractions, or you will lose your way quickly and not "get it".

Today was a rainy Saturday, so, based on one of the reviews here, I gave the film another try. I went from disliking it nine years ago, to becoming completely absorbed and blown away by how good it was the second time around. Perhaps because I just turned 56 years old, I have matured mentally, or maybe it is just more pertinent in my life right now, but for anyone seeking truths and lies, fantasy and fiction, or simply the meaning of existence, this is the film for you. Younger audiences may tire of "Synecdoche" from sheer inability to relate to the mountains of emotions that pour out over the course of two hours, but this is by no means a "slow" film. This is a film with heart and soul and in retrospect, may be Philip Seymour Hoffman's magnificent Magnum Opus.
32 people found this helpful
Texas GunsafeReviewed in the United States on May 6, 2021
1.0 out of 5 stars
If you like depressing movies...
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then this is the movie for you. After a half hour I just couldn't take it anymore and all the dark, depressing themes going on. I only bought this because IMDB gave it a higher than seven star and it had Philip Seymour Hoffman in it. Had I known how depressing this movie was, I would have never bought it. There's a difference between a drama flick and a movie so utterly depressing it makes you contemplate your own existence in this world. This is the later.
3 people found this helpful
The serpent says.Reviewed in the United States on October 30, 2015
4.0 out of 5 stars
The invention of Hell.
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This is simply one of the most brilliant movies I've ever seen. The intricate complexity, the playing of players, the reflection on how we live on rumination, and think if we can examine something with just one more angle, with a little more detail, we'll finally "get it", while real life - and love - pass by.
And I'll never watch it again. It's too agonizing. It speaks to clearly about my own worse impulses - selfishness, regret, not letting go, injuring those who are with me now because of fixation on this grand design of reflection. And it does it with such razor-sharp deftness that even though I don't think of myself as far gone as he gets even in the beginning of the film, it's like the most horrible, troll-like aspects of me were given form and pushed through the destroyed persona portrayed by Phillip Seymour Hoffman. It's really terrifying - I usually use "Se7en" as my go-to for "incredible film I'll never watch again" but this one tops it - that for outer horror, this for inner horror. I give it 4 stars to indicate this.
The actors, the actors of actors and so on - some of them even seem to be trying to show him the error of his ways, but he just nods as he hears them, but it doesn't sink in: The show must go on, life be damned.
Right down to the very last word, which echoed for some time after the movie stopped. Staggering.
Well done, Kaufman, Hoffman (RIP), Keener, Williams, Morton, Wiest, David and on and on.

You created a universe as a warning to us all.
13 people found this helpful
DeborahReviewed in the United States on July 4, 2015
5.0 out of 5 stars
An extraordinary film that I will certainlywatch again. The role of Caden
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An extraordinary film that I will certainly watch again. The role of Caden, which Philip Seymour Hoffman creates is a lifetime achievement portraying a man's life from middle age to elderly. He portrays it with the full embodiment of his entire lifetime as an actor. The other supporting actors, especially the role of his artist wife played by Catherine Keener and a cameo by Dianne Wiest - brilliant screen portraits to match the stunning directing. Written and directed by Charlie Kaufman. I cannot say it any better than Roger Ebert. Here are some of the words he wrote about it when he reviewed it in 2008:

"I think you have to see Charlie Kaufman's "Synecdoche, New York" twice. I watched it the first time and knew it was a great film and that I had not mastered it. The second time because I needed to. The third time because I will want to. It will open to confused audiences and live indefinitely. A lot of people these days don't even go to a movie once. There are alternatives. It doesn't have to be the movies, but we must somehow dream. If we don't "go to the movies" in any form, our minds wither and sicken.

This is a film with the richness of great fiction. Like Suttree, the Cormac McCarthy novel I'm always mentioning, it's not that you have to return to understand it. It's that you have to return to realize how fine it really is. The surface may daunt you. The depths enfold you. The whole reveals itself, and then you may return to it like a talisman.

Wow, is that ever not a "money review." Why will people hurry along to what they expect to be trash, when they're afraid of a film they think may be good? The subject of "Synecdoche, New York" is nothing less than human life and how it works. Using a neurotic theater director from upstate New York, it encompasses every life and how it copes and fails. Think about it a little and, my god, it's about you. Whoever you are."
22 people found this helpful
Drew RogersReviewed in the United States on September 21, 2017
4.0 out of 5 stars
then it creates a rather boring movie. But trying to find what truly was ...
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Caden's life engulfing idealistic views gave an intersting take on idealism and the pursuit of perfection and success. Its obvious to point out that he was trying ot carve out an utopian world, but in fact he was creating a relatively mirror image of his reality he was trying to escape. If along the way of watching the film, you view his work and goals in a rather simplistic manner, i.e. his toal apathy and depressed view of his life, then it creates a rather boring movie. But trying to find what truly was behind his failed manifestation made this movie interesting. The ping-pong scenes between the actors of the real life characers and the real life characters was somewhat of a saving grace and made for some good dialogue. Overall, the film was almost there in being brillaint, but like Caden's work, it failed in translation.
2 people found this helpful
drollereReviewed in the United States on February 8, 2014
5.0 out of 5 stars
poignant hall of mirrors
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i thought this film was beautifully ambitious and challenging, and my wife thought it was "icky people, icky places, worst film i've ever seen". that pretty much covers the spread in the ratings here.

about halfway through the film i burst out laughing. not at any particularly humorous turn (the film is full of humor), but because i had been hanging onto the film the way a dangling man hangs by his fingertips from a high ledge, and finally i just had to let go. my interpretation of what was going on collapsed. my belief that i was making sense of it all evaporated. i had to laugh.

in retrospect, the words spoken by the priest near the end of the film tugged me back in. we pass through life playing roles, and pretending other people are playing roles, and thereby distance ourselves from life itself. synecdoche is the rhetorical device of using the part to stand for the whole (asking for a woman's "hand" in marriage), and kaufman presents a feckless stage director who orchestrates dramatic parts (the pun must be intentional) to stand for whole people, a director whose vast dramatic project is the vast inner theater of roles and the uncertain manipulation of action that form his connection to the real world. "when are we going to have an audience?" one of the dozens of actors demands of him. never -- because the director is the audience, and the impatient actor is just the image of some real person in the director's solitary mind.

i can't claim to understand why every real person except his ex wife and their daughter is played by an actor (they become idealizations rather than real people?), or why the ex wife's paintings must be examined with magnifying glasses, or why the director's mistress reads proust and lives in a house that is continually afire, or why she turns flirtatious with the actor playing the director, or why that actor commits suicide and the director decides to take the part of a cleaning woman so that the actress playing the cleaning woman can replace the actor playing him as the director ... it becomes a hall of mirrors and puzzles, and meanwhile the dramatic project grows into the size of a city ... why? why? perhaps because our answers to the questions of life make a city of fiction, and we consume our life directing the actors we use to populate it.

despite my wife's reaction, i believe the ambition, visual language, and life history arc of the narrative, the symbolism and interpretive traps, the quality of the acting (especially by philip seymour hoffman, christine keeler and samantha morton) and the sheer hilarity of the many dramatic metaphors, will commend this film to your attention ... at least once. i can't predict if you will laugh or snarl when the film finally escapes your understanding, but i hope it does, because the film seems to me to suggest that any interpretable theater of identity only walls us off from our brief and uniquely incomprehensible existence.
8 people found this helpful
Eric WarrenReviewed in the United States on November 3, 2015
4.0 out of 5 stars
Is unrelenting sadness a virture?
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I again wish I could myself give a film a star rating that include a "half star". I would give Synechoche 3 and a half stars. As one reviewer suggested, I have watched this twice - the first time a couple of years ago. I actually liked it more, then. I realize that sadness is a part of the human condition, but that doesn't mean that a film must be so unrelentingly so to interrogate that fact. For example, "Never Let Me Go", the excellent British Sci-fi film may be the saddest film I have ever seen. But it has moments of beauty, and a theme of love and heartbreak. Synecdoche is like a bad post-Modern acid trip, all angst and no hope. Which is odd, because Kaufmann has excelled at wrapping his serious studies of the human condition in tart comedy, such as "Being John Malkovich", "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and even "Adaptation". The latter wasn't nearly as funny as it should have been, but still very good. Synecdoche just feels like a prolonged intellectual exercise that, like a lot of critical theory these days, just leads no where. Or, leads to very dangerous and depressing conclusions about the basic meaninglessness of life. Charlie, I knew French Existential Angst, and let me tell you you are no French Existential Angst. Is "Cotard" a play on "Lyotard"? Maybe it should be a play on "Baudrillard" who, to my mind is THE most depressing post modern critic. And, the saddest thing about the film? Watching creepy Tom Noonan, the remarkable Red Dragon serial killer from Michael Mann's "Manhunter" literally ape, mime, precis and many other things Philip Seymour Hoffman's main character? No, that's funny. The truly saddest thing about the film is watching a great actor who destroyed his life with Heroin addiction, knowing he won't make any more films. Sniff...
College ProfessorReviewed in the United States on June 25, 2021
1.0 out of 5 stars
More boring than imaginable
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Awful movie. Incredibly boring. Overly focused on poop in toilets-- discussing color, moving it with a spoon, showing it, more discussion of color. Disgusting--and incredibly stupid plot, where you can find it. How this gloomy and plotless movie was called a comedy or anything artistic by anyone is beyond me. Waste of money.
One person found this helpful
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