Swiss Army Man (2016)
On Tuesday, June 21st of 2016, I run into The Metrograph in NYC to buy upcoming tickets to a move that is showing there in a few days. For those of you that don't know, The Metrograph is a new theater in NYC, that has two theaters, a bookstore that stocks only books about films and actors, and a restaurant. I have been told it is owned by a fashion designer, and it looks less like a beautiful theater of the past as much as a hipster style sparse but fashionable venue. The screens are big and the larger theater has a balcony, and the seats look really nice and are made from re-purposed wood from The Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn. If they were half as comfortable as they looked my back would be very appreciative. The staff are exceedingly nice, which makes up for the massive hipster vibe and the fact that almost everyone that works there looks like they could model, or do model. At least half the clientele also look like models, and I have already caught a few celebrities there. One of the things they do is rent out the upstairs restaurant area for parties and gatherings, usually filled with industry and hipster people, and models. If you are at all put off by this vibe this place could be hell for you, but personally it doesn't really bother me as long as people are nice and I can still look like I might be homeless.
So when I wander in there the other night and they are having another one of these parties, I do not really take much notice. I scan the room and quickly see a bunch of industry people mingling/schmoozing, and a bevy of "hot" women wearing high heels and too much make up. But something seems off. There are two done up blondes sitting on either side of a guy on one of the fancy looking love seats that adorn the waiting area. They are posing for pictures with this guy who seems, umm, off, to say the least. If I saw him sitting next to a building with a bottle in his hand, I would assume he was an alcoholic, or maybe a drug addict. Although he is wearing a suit, something is wrong with him. He is either highly intoxicated, high as a kite, sick as a dog, or has some sort of disability, as he is sitting like a young Stephen Hawking looking like he might keel over at any moment. This being NYC, I notice it, but in all reality this is not something I haven't seen before, so I could just as easily been on my way and never found out what was going on.
I make small talk with the girl printing up my tickets, and mention the event that is going on. She says yes, this is for the new Daniel Radcliffe movie coming out, and points to the guy on the love seat and tells me that it is a dummy of him dead from the new movie. At least now I know he isn't about to drop dead, he is already dead! I make my way through the crowd of models to check him out, and sure enough, now I can see the resemblance to the actor who once played Harry Potter. This is a worn out, beat up, been through hell version, in a rumpled suit and sitting in a position that I sometimes have to sit in while watching a movie in this theater, due to those pretty but uncomfortable seats. I snap a few pictures and I am on my way to whatever movie I was going to that night.
Fast forward 5 days and I am looking to see what I need to get tickets for that might sell out soon, as the New York Asian Film Festival is going on, and there are a few movies I want to catch. Sunday nights are usually quiet when it comes to the older and more interesting (to me) films are showing, so my girlfriend and I tend to catch newer releases on Sunday nights, if we have a chance. I know we both wanted to catch Independence Day, the sequel, and a couple other films that are out right now, but I try to avoid the big movies opening weekend, if I can. I see a listing for Swiss Army Man, and I do a quick read of the plot to see what it is about. Curiously enough, it is the new Daniel Radcliffe film that the dummy was from. I tend to try to avoid as much info as I can about movies I haven't seen, I do not watch trailers if possible, and I only glance at reviews, especially ones that give away too much away. I read that this movie is about a guy that gets marooned on a desert island, and finds a corpse and it becomes his new best friend. I also read that it was made by The Daniels, which is a duo of directors who have previously made music videos. I am a big fan of some of the Spike Jonze films, who also started off as a director of music videos, so with only that information I decide we should see this film. My girlfriend ended up watching the trailer before as well, and agreed we should see it.
With something I know I am going to that is a bit different, I try and keep an open mind, and since I know very little about this film I was ready for just about anything. And what I got was definitely NOT what I expected, at least in terms of my enjoyment level. I hoped if I was lucky I might get to see an amusing film with a few laughs and an interesting plot. What I got was a great film, one that was both ridiculous, silly, insane, and funny, yet somehow heartfelt, emotional, sad, intelligent, and one of the best, if not the best film I have seen this year. I am pretty shocked to be this moved by what is essentially what seems like a crude comedy with a message.
I am going to skip the basic plot, I mentioned more than enough earlier, and to be honest, any description of this plot may come off a juvenile, silly, or make this movie sound like a throwaway, and it is not that at all. It is one of the most intelligent and aware films I have ever seen, and one that I may have to catch again very soon just to see how it holds up on repeated viewings.
I will say just a bit more about this film. The acting is first class, the effects are very good, the cinematography and lighting and artwork and design in this movie are amazing, and the soundtrack and score are beautiful and this is probably the first soundtrack I have heard in years where I wished I could walk down the block and just buy it after the movie.
I give this one a very high 8 out of 10 stars, which may become a 9 out of 10 on repeated viewings.