Thursday, June 30, 2016

Movie Review: SWISS ARMY MAN

When I first saw the trailer for this film, I didn't quite know what to make of it.  The "Farting Corpse Movie" as it became known as, looked like a weird indie flick that might be fun, but probably wouldn't have a ton of substance.  But after watching it at a recent press screening, I have to say, I was so wrong.  This film definitely is weird, but it's so much more.  It's a weird, wild story, full of emotion and heart, and really makes you think about what it is to be alive.

The film starts off pretty dark, with Paul Dano's character about to kill himself.  That's when he sees a washed up body on the beach, and the weirdness begins.  The opening sets the scale for the weirdness for the film with Hank (Paul Dano) riding the corpse like a fart-powered jet ski.  It's crazy, and hilarious, and, for lack of a better word, weird, but at the same time, powerful.  From the time the film starts up to the title card (which is only a few minutes), we go from a man at the end of his rope (literally) to someone happy and excited to be alive.  It's a total transformation and absolutely hooked me.  And don't worry, they actually give a reason for the "super powered flatulence". 

Swiss Army Man is the feature film directorial debut of Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, better known as the DANIELS, who also wrote the screenplay.  These two know exactly how to tell a unique story with familiar elements, enveloping you in this strange world.  There is so much to love about this film from the incredible performances by the two leads, the beautiful cinematography, and a score so powerful and emotional that it makes even the most awkward moments feel dramatic and heartfelt.  

It's made pretty clear early on, to those paying attention, that Manny (Daniel Radcliffe) is really Hank's inner voice, but the story is so well told that you end up forgetting about that and treating Manny as a real character with hopes and dreams of his own.  This film, as I said before, is so much more than just the "Farting Corpse Movie", it's a story about love, survival, and friendship.  It's a story about what it means to be alive and how loneliness can drive a person to the edge.  It's definitely a comedy, but, in my opinion, it's first and foremost a drama and a study of the human condition, and a beautifully told one at that.

Now, you can't make a movie as good as this without a strong, talented cast, and Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe are just that.  They both give amazing performances throughout this film, especially Dano.  For a large part of the film, Dano was essentially playing in a one-man film, and he did such a fantastic job, but once Radcliffe was able to really start contributing, it made the film into the wonderfully fun adventure that I'm describing.  Daniel Radcliffe has some of the most I appropriate lines in the entire movie, whether he's talking to Hank about sex and masturbation, or asking him about his farting habits, but his delivery, coupled with a very heartwarming score, gives his performance a level of tender emotion that I never thought I would see from this character, and has landed Radcliffe on my "actors I need to follow" list, right next to Paul Dano.

One of my absolute favorite scenes in the entire film has to be the bus scene with Hank and Manny.  It seemed like it should've been a really awkward part of the film, but it surprisingly was not, and in fact was very touching and poignant.  You truly believe and want to root for this weird, budding "romance", even though you know it could never be.  It tugs hard on the heartstrings and doesn't want to let go.  But as I said before, this is also a comedy, and it delivers plenty of laughs throughout.  One of my favorite lines that I laughed really hard at was during a scene were Hank is trying to help Manny remember his old life and he begins talking about Jurassic Park, which Manny has no idea about, and Hank says "If you don't know Jurassic Park, you don't know shit!"  I died laughing so hard at this.  I don't know why, but I found it hilarious, and there were plenty of similar points during the film that I laughed and smiled.

The only issue with the film for me, and it's not that big of an issue, was that toward the end certain parts got slightly confusing, but I was able to figure it out, so it didn't cause too much of an issue.  The ending might rub some people the wrong way, as it's definitely unconventional, but I really enjoyed it and thought it fit the story perfectly.  So if you get a chance to check out this new film from one of my new favorite film studios, A24, definitely do it.  You may hate it, you may love it, but this is one of those films that, I believe, will be talked about for years to come, so be sure you see it for yourself.

The Merc's Score: 8.5/10

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