Paul Giamatti (as himself) is a New York actor rehearsing for a stage production of Uncle Vanya. Understandably, the play is depressing him, so he decides to put his soul in storage and lighten up. He finds a facility in the Yellow Pages, and the staff there (Strathairn and Ambrose) help him to desoul his body, although he's a little unnerved when, in a jar, his soul looks like a common chick pea. Meanwhile, Nina (Korzun) is a mule transporting souls between Russia and America, which causes rather serious complications for Paul.
French-born Barthes uses warm comedy and atmospheric suspense to keep us both entertained and unsure where the story will go next. The film is a startling mix of absurd humour and aching emotion, with sharp little details and extremely astute dialog. The matter-of-fact approach to the whole soul-storage business catches us off guard, and we can see why Paul is so desperate to separate himself from his grim stage character.
Giamatti reveals glimpses inside himself while clearly relishing the overall farce. We can see that Paul feels lighter without his soul, and this gives him a chance to subtly explore the nature of relationships and acting through playful scenes with his perplexed wife (the superb Watson) and theatre director (Tucker), both of whom jump to the wrong conclusions. Opposite him, Korzun is also terrific as a woman suffering from the residue of all the souls she has carried.
Barthes cleverly uses camera angles and focal length to give us hints and insight, while she amusingly references films from Being John Malkovich to Sleeper. The similarities with Kaufman and Allen create a familiarity that's perhaps the only flaw here. Otherwise, Barthes has a fiercely original message, and a wonderfully raw tone that also draws on Bunuel and, of course, Chekhov.
As the story takes a series of witty twists and turns, she wins us over with silly touches and thoughtful emotion. And the fact that it's perhaps the heavy weight of being human that defines us.
Run time: 101 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 5th May 2010
Box Office USA: $0.7M
Distributed by: IDP/Samuel goldwyn Films
Production compaines: ARTE France Cinéma, Samuel Goldwyn, Journeyman Pictures, Winner Arts, Touchy Feely Films, Memento Films Production
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 74%
Fresh: 90 Rotten: 32
IMDB: 6.5 / 10
Director: Sophie Barthes
Producer: Daniel Carey, Elizabeth Giamatti, Paul S. Mezey, Andrij Parekh, Jeremy Kipp Walker
Screenwriter: Sophie Barthes
Also starring: Michael Tucker
Like an antidote to vacuous blockbusters, this intelligent, thoughtful drama packs more intensity into a...
This biopic gallops through the career of groundbreaking gangsta rappers N.W.A, working its way through...
Basically the perfect summer movie, this lightweight drama has a great-looking cast and plenty of...
As the ghoul from the 2012 horror hit stalks a new family, this sequel's sharply...
After setting the scene with vivid characters and some insightful interaction, the plot of this...
Both the characters and the tone have been updated as a new generation of Grizwolds...
Amy Schumer makes her big screen debut with a script that feels like a much-extended...
Adopting a deliciously groovy vibe, Guy Ritchie turns the iconic 1960s TV spy series into...