I went and saw Swiss Army Man starring Paul Dano (Little Miss Sunshine) and Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter fame) in the theater this past weekend.
A hopeless man stranded in the wilderness befriends a dead body and together they go on a surreal journey to get home.
Surreal is a good word for this movie, also disturbing and flatulence. Honestly, I could leave that one sentence and it would be my nicest review of this movie that I could give, but I guess I’ll put some effort into why I found this movie not exactly up to par with my expectations of humor and heart in a movie about disconnection and death.
Those are elements of humor and heart in this tale, but the reality of the story line grows more and more depressing as I settle into my understanding and emotional take away from it. In the end, there isn’t much to it. A man finds a dead body that he befriends and uses as a way to get back to reality. Sorta. Not really. Maybe? There are some joyous moments as Hank, played by Paul Dano, finally connects to something, in way he has not in his entire life. There are some funny moments as his adventure with a dead body takes him to surreal places. However, those moments do not mask the harsh reality that in the end it is a story about a man whose first real connection in a long time is to a dead body.
That is just depressing.
Plus, it feels as though the writers didn’t really know how they wanted to end it. I wont give away the ending, but I will say this, I expected maybe a sad ending or a weirdly wonderful one, like Seeking a Friend for the End of the World or Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind or countless other quirky and surreal movies that have heart and humor, but Swiss Army Man felt as though the writers wrote a weird ending to just to have a weird ending. Just, what is the weirdest way we can end this …. and yah lets do that weird ending. An unsubstantial ending that I felt derailed the entire journey of Hank.
I was the only one that thought this coming out of the theater. Everyone in my group agreed it was a weird little movie, but several people loved that the ending was random and weird. However, the more I think about it, the more I feel my initial reaction was correct, that it was a non-ending in a way that was not very meaningful to the characters. And I think an entire movie that revolves around two people, one of them a dead body, should have a meaningful ending for those two people.
Interesting movie, yes. Fun to see the interactions of Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe, yes. Fascinating story, yes. Weird, humorous, and maybe worth watching at home some afternoon when your brain is going strange and you need a strange movie to watch alongside your strange brain. Sure. But. . but. . . don’t expect to have a sense of . . . anything when you have finished watching it.
What it really boils down to is that it is a movie about farting, a dead hairy bottom, and a sad man who cannot connect with reality in any shape or form. Even sadder is that as a viewer I was wholly disconnected from the characters by the writers’ and director’s choice about how the story ends.