Swiss Army Man (2016)

Swiss Army Man
Director: Dan KwanDaniel Scheinert
Writer: Daniel Scheinert, Dan Kwan
Cast: Paul DanoDaniel RadcliffeMary Elizabeth Winstead
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 1.10.2016
[Review by cornholio.]

Plot:
Hank (Paul Dano) is stranded on a deserted island. His only company is Manny (Daniel Radcliffe). It’s just that Manny is actually dead. But he is still able to speak and his body has some absolutely perfect properties for Hank’s escape. So the two of them make their way back home. And the longer they travel together, the more they discover about each other.

It’s hard to put into words how strange Swiss Army Man actually is and how much that strangeness benefits it without it being a gimmick. Much too often, the strangeness of a film feels like posturing, here it is an absolutely central part of the film’s heart and soul – and it’s got a lot of those, transforming Swiss Army Man into a magical experience that is bound to make you emotional.

It is a wondrous thing that the basic outline of this story – the quest of a strange castaway and a multifunctional corpse with homoerotic undertones – turns into the emotional experience that Swiss Army Man is. (Not to mention that it feels like a miracle that the film got made in the first place.) But amid all the ludicrousness all the absurdity there is so much emotional depth in the story that it feels like there are truths about humanity itself being revealed while you’re laughing about fart jokes. (And honestly, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen Paul Dano ride Daniel Radcliffe’s farting corpse like a jet-ski to cross over the sea.)

I can’t imagine this story working with another lead than Paul Dano. It doesn’t matter what role he takes on, he brings an emotional sincerity to it that makes me fall in love with him and his characters every time. And as mean as this may sound, Daniel Radcliffe makes for an excellent corpse as his strengths as an actor are perfectly complemented by the role’s requirements and his weaknesses forgotten.

It’s one of the rare films that feel like they’re over way too quickly – I wouldn’t have minded spending twice the time with Hank and Manny in the woods, marveling over Hank’s magical contraptions and watching their relationship grow – although I do wish that they had actually lived out the homoerotic tension between them and made the story and the characters openly gay or bi, instead of focusing on Sarah (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Especially since [SPOILER] it turns out that Hank has been stalking Sarah. I mean, it’s okay insofar as it’s clear at the end of the film that Hank is not healthy and belongs in psychiatric care, but still. [/SPOILER]

But these are minor gripes I have with the film that don’t take away from the deep affecting nature of it. How can you not love a film that uses Cotton Eye Joe perfectly on its generally strong and wonderful soundtrack? I know that I couldn’t resist it at all.

Summarizing: As good as perfect and a definite must-see.

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