Swiss Army Man

2016 comedy

Rating: 17/20

Plot: A suicidal man deserted on an island befriends a dead but gifted guy.

Within a few minutes, Dano is riding on a fart-propelled Harry Potter like he's a jet ski. And almost instantly, I had a new favorite movie. Sure, I was bummed when I saw this was directed by "Daniels," which ended up being a pair of guys named Daniel. But when a movie is this vivacious, this unique, this creative, this gut-bustingly hilarious, this flatulent, this heartfelt, this tragic, this twisty, this humanly written, this perfectly directed, this flavorful, this magically realistic, this completely absurd, this stylish, this much fun, and this beautiful, you can ignore all that because you really have to pay attention.

Paul Dano says that the directors' description of the movie was a movie where "the first fart makes you laugh and the last fart makes you cry." I could understand an argument made that this movie is just one long fart joke, but those farts have something to say, something about what makes us human and why that matters. I never cried, but I felt that gas as deeply as one can feel gas.

The magical thing about what the Daniels do here is that they constantly surprise you. The movie starts with a great bit of physical black comedy and abruptly takes a surreal left turn. And just when you get the feeling that it's going to spin its wheels and settle into a fart-drenched rut, it hits you with something new. And then, it hits you with something new. And then there's Kaufman-esque shifts, a dark twist, and more surprises. This is a movie that never settles for anything, consistently keeping you on your toes and maintaining this freshness from start to end. And for a movie driven by only two actors, that's even more surprising.

I have to talk about them because they're both brilliant. Dano is amazing as the living character, half-crazed and wild-eyed. He brings a humanity to the proceedings, a sort of straight man to Radcliffe's animated dead guy shtick. And Radcliffe is amazing as that dead guy. It's a brave performance, just the sort of thing the guy needs to bust out of his Harry Potter robes. I had become convinced that Radcliffe didn't have much to offer, but I was impressed with the versatility he managed to display while playing a deceased character.

And oh my God, the score! Andy Hull and Robert McDowell wrote the acapella score, and I just found out now that Radcliffe and Dano performed it. It's quirky and hilarious and fits what you're seeing on the screen about as perfectly as I've heard music fit movie visuals. I loved it!

And I loved this movie, the sort of art that reminds me why I like movies so much. There was absolutely no way this movie could possibly live up to the hype that I had built up in my head, but remarkably, it somehow did. I'm still as excited about it right now as I was a week ago while I was watching it, and I can't wait to see what the Daniels do from here.

This movie deserves a Best Picture nomination, by the way. I'm not sure human beings deserve movies like this, but I know the movie deserves that nomination.


Josh said...

I couldn't agree more with what you said. It was remarkable how they wrote these characters -- each needing the other. Each being a teacher and a learner. The discovery one found in the other. The story is absolutely genius. A man using a dead man to learn about how to live life. So many things needed to come together in order to make this successful.

The actors: There needed to be a self-awareness in their performance in order to pull this off. Chewing scenery or even under-selling it would be laughable. There was such a pitch-perfect performance about both of them. Right down to their line delivery.

The writing: Again, a self-aware script. Saying what we are all thinking is brilliant. "How did the writer write that knowing I was going to think that?"

The editing: What amazing story-telling. Piecing it all together, especially at the end. When all you have is two actors and a redundant setting, you have to move the story with visuals. They absolutely kept my eyes engaged (a big hand for cinematography, too).

The score: I can just imagine someone saying, "What kind of music would you hear in a movie like this?" Someone thinking outside the box would say, "You would only hear voices since it's just the two of them." Hence this amazing score. So tasteful, yet powerful. I really like how it was incorporated into a couple of the scenes.

Overall, one of the most creative and artistic and entertaining movies I've seen.

Shane said...

Yeah, it was my second favorite movie that I saw this year. Turin Horse only beat it because it was directed by a guy with one name instead of two people who went by a dumb name like Daniels.

I don't feel like reading my review to see if I even understood the score and then forgot about it or if I just never really understood it. It does make sense that the score would consist only of their voices! It's like when I'm alone and bored and hum or beatbox (I do that in the car some times) or make stupid noises. So perfect!

Cory said...

Nope. I respect the effort and probable motivations behind making this movie too much to say I hated it, but it was a film that I could not see recommending to anyone else. Farts and spastic erections are welcome for a surprisingly short amount of screen time as far as I'm concerned. An 8. Sorry.

Shane said...

I don't think you've ever been this wrong before.

Those erections and farts were thematically important!

Anonymous said...

i can't even express how much i hated this movie. if this is his life flashing before his eyes as he dies, what a shit life. if this is to be taken at some sort of face value the main character is a sociopath. harry potter farts and everyone is suddenly okay with the guy stalking this woman? if i am suppose to learn some "what it means to be human lesson", i learned "everyone farts", "everyone shits", "and girls are scary".

Shane said...

You're as wrong as Cory then. Embarrassing times for you two.

I don't think his life was flashing before his eyes, and I don't think this was excusing the stalking of women. He may have been a bit of a sociopath, but the reason is explicit and has to do with Harry Potter farting.

Anonymous said...

ok just read cory's assessment. i would give it more than an 8. i liked the cinematography, and you are right, the soundtrack was great. the script was just a mess and the movie just left me sad. wasn't it suppose to feel uplifting? what is suppose to be my take away from this film?

Shane said...

It absolutely was uplifting! The character learned how to be comfortable as a human being and was able to love both the physical and emotional parts of himself. It definitely shouldn't have left you sad!