Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Under 250: Cold Souls

I'm gonna go ahead and say that I personally think that metaphysical, existential comedies are too few and far between. Forget all of this 'relationship' garbage, life itself is where the humor is at. The folly of living, human nature, all that philosophical psycho-babble isn't mined nearly as often as it should be. With Cold Souls writer/director Sophie Barthes (no word on whether she's related to Roland) takes the pieces of a Charlie Kaufman movie and mixes them up with a smidge more accessibility and the impressively used Paul Giamatti. Giamatti plays a version of himself. He's staring in a play but can't quite access the role the way the director wants. He reads a piece in the New Yorker about a place that specializes in the extraction of the human soul to put into cold storage. He goes. The side effects, we learn, are unpredictable. Some souls carry more weight than others. With the removal of 95% you could have levity, callousness, or merely an out of body experience. The premise is amusing, and the results are delivered through a dark lens. Admittedly, the film hovers at a precarious point of being too posed to be laugh out loud funny, but even as it maneuvered through small tragedies I was entertained and able to see the slight absurdities inherent within the story. Barthes tries hard and produces a worthy effort, but Cold Souls feels a bit confused. Mixed into the Giamatti storyline is a subplot of Russian black market trafficking and, in particular, a soul mule (Dina Korzun) whose consciousness seems thrown into turmoil by the essences she's carried. While intriguing on several levels, the Russians felt a tad imposed, as if Barthes realized the simplicity of Giamatti's neurotic one man show and decided to try and tack on some depth and emotional weight for good measure. While I could have done with some commitment one way or another, the film (even as a mixed bag) is a twisty breath of fresh air for anyone exhausted by the big budget repetition of the Hollywood comedy.

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