Synecdoche, New York
As the precociously punning but actually kind of stupid title implies, it’s another art-life funhouse from screenwriter Charlie Kaufman—this one, his directorial debut, particularly tedious. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays a self-torturing playwright and theater director so anxious about his corporeal and creative limitations that he mounts an epic autobiographical production within a full-scale replica of New York City. Catherine Keener, Samantha Morton and Michelle Williams are among the women whose attention he wants. Life is so complicatedly humiliating, Kaufman insists, and he’s right. Too bad his insistence is so simple-mindedly aggrandizing. If Synecdoche, New York makes you think of the magic-act showmanship of Welles, the circus ring mastery of Fellini, the ruthlessly surreal social critique of Buñuel or the nightmarish allure of David Lynch … well, maybe you should man up, admit your wistful nostalgia and resign to the fact that by comparison to those enduring artists, Kaufman seems like a callow solipsist.