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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 06.24.16] comedy drama

Sarah, one of the few characters in Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert's (AKA Daniels) debut feature Swiss Army Man puts it best when, in the movie's final scene, she looks incredulously at the scene which just unfolded before her and asks "What the fuck?"

Until the debut of Swiss Army Man, Daniels were best known for their music videos and commercials, all of which feature the pair's unique sense of comedy and visual style. Much to their benefit or detriment – depending on where you fall on their style – their feature film is exactly what one might expect from the pair of filmmakers: audacious, touching, sometimes hilarious and after a while, really aggravating.

Paul Dano stars as Hank, a desperate man at the end of his rope both literally and figuratively. There's no explanation as to how or why he's stranded on a deserted island but he's had enough of his time alone and just as he's about to call it quits on life, he sees a body washed ashore. It's not like a single guy can help Hank get home but the prospect of a connection to another human being gives Hank some hope and even when it turns out the body is nothing more than a washed up corpse, it gives Hank renewed spark. Soon Hank has named the corpse Manny and the two are sharing moments which are both hilarious (as when Hank discovers he can use the flatulating corpse as a jet ski) and poignant (when Hank shares insights into humanity with Manny who seems to have lost all understanding of the world).

Hank is obviously a little crazy. What's not immediately clear is whether he was always a little different or if his time alone has made him a bit batty. Either way, his adventures with Manny lead to some really interesting and touching insights into friendship, relationships, and societal norms. If you can get past and/or look beyond the ridiculousness of the situation and Daniel Radcliffe's bizarre performance, Swiss Army Man does have a really wonderful message about friendship, embracing your inner weird and non-conformity but the packaging gets tedious fairly quickly.

Daniels' concept is interesting and one can't fault their originality and ambition at telling a familiar story unconventionally but Swiss Army Man feels like a great concept for a short film stretched too thin. After a while Radcliffe's farting, water-spewing corpse performance goes from original and funny to repetitive and annoying and Dano, as magnetic as he is, doesn't have enough material to carry the story on his own.

I love that Swiss Army Man exists. The movie doesn't work for me but I love that the Daniels are out there attempting to tell emotional stories in weird and wacky ways. I love that someone gave them a shot at a feature and sincerely hope that they get the opportunity to make more movies. I hope I like the next one better but one thing is certain: I'll certainly be watching the next one.

Swiss Army Man opens in limited release on June 24.

Recommended Release: Lars and the Real Girl

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Lenny (6 years ago) Reply

So bummed this is limited release I missed that somehow. Now I have to wait who knows how long to see it...

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