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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

A Simulacrum Of Life

Synecdoche, New York (2008) on IMDb

Plot Overview

Theater director Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is presenting Arthur Miller's “Death of a Salesman.” Like the protagonist in “Death” he's confronted with his own mortality (“I don't feel well.”) A series of medical specialists is less than helpful. He's getting depressed on this first day of fall in Schenectady, New York.

His wife Adele Lack (Catherine Keener) takes her artwork and their four-year-old daughter Olive (Sadie Goldstein) with her to Berlin, leaving Caden in the lurch. He resists advances from opportunistic females. Adele doesn't keep in touch. Caden is becoming morose.


Caden wins the 2009 MacArthur fellow grant allowing him financial independence. He moves to NYC, secures a ware­house in the theater district, and sets up shop. His play morphs into one about him­self, actors playing him and others sig­nif­i­cant to him. He loses track of the years as his pro­duction end­less­ly pro­gresses. Mean­while, Adele's miniature portraits shrink further in size and she becomes an inter­national sensation. Olive grows up, gets tattooed, and becomes an exotic dancer. Eventually, Caden's play faces a final curtain call.


Caden's grand project mirroring his life turns into an untitled boondoggle on a Bunyanesque set. Yet for all that, he is unable to discover any deeper meaning to his life. It would be analogous to the great king Solomon who wrote, (Eccl. 2:8-11)

I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces: I gat me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments, and that of all sorts. So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me. And what­soever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I with­held not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour. Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.

We take it that the songs and the backdrop would have for Solomon been a like attempt to find meaning to his existence.

Production Values

This drama, “” (2008) was written and directed by Charlie Kaufman. It stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, Samantha Morton, and Michelle Williams. Hoffman and Morton were out­standing. The rest of the cast held up their own as well. The child actor Sadie Goldstein was believ­able in her role.

MPAA rated it R for language and some sexual content/nudity. The convoluted plot pretty much requires repeat viewing(s) to make sense of it all. There's a lot of medical info embedded in the plot, which may interest some, or not. It doesn't necessarily portray the theater in-crowd at their finest.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

“Synecdoche” is a movie about a man making a play reflecting his inevitable death as he's reminded by his gradually deteriorating body. Try as he might he can't sense any deeper meaning to life through his play or else­where. The movie succeeds at representing the effort, and we can't expect a happy, Holly­wood ending. My movie class was sparsely attended when we got to this one. I expect there were reasons.

Movie Ratings

Action Factor: Weak action scenes. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day. Suspense: A few suspenseful moments. Overall movie rating: Four stars out of five.