Swiss Army Man
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.