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Beneath a strange sci-fi exterior lies a wealth of social commentary which will remind you of the distance you put between yourself and your negative emotions.
Review (with Spoilers)
Previous to this film, the only production I have seen of Terry Gilliam was The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus which was very trippy. So with the knowledge he made this film, as well as Christoph Waltz, Matt Damon, and the ever eccentric Tilda Swinton participating, there were many reasons to see this. Though the question becomes: after finishing this rather strange movie, can I really recommend this?
Characters & Story
In a year far beyond the present, the world has become like most futuristic dystopias which have invasive advertising and there seems to be no investment in making the city look pristine. A world where one man, Qohen Leth (Christoph Waltz), ponders what is the meaning to his life? A question which bothers him so severely it creates a multitude of phobias and a strong sense of anxiety which alienates him. Well, that is until Management (Matt Damon) takes notice of Qohen after he tries to apply for disability. Something which is denied since he is physically healthy, but Management does allow him to work at home where his yearlong self-exile leads to him slowly going mad as Dr. Shrink-Rom (Tilda Swinton), Bob (Lucas Hedges) and Bainsley (Melanie Thierry) all try to pull him out of his own madness.
Waltz as Qohen presents a very familiar feeling of hopelessness in a society which you are geared to be something, yet are never sure where you fit. So to compensate with this feeling of unknowing, you drown yourself in sex, drugs, alcohol and keep going until they either become too dangerous to your system or just numb you to the point where you can’t recover. Which, while watching, created a sense of fear in me for as Qohen goes over how nice life was until he really got deep into his adult years, as a 22 year old it made me ponder where my life may go? Especially the part Qohen repeats about getting “the call” which is supposed to be life-affirming. Something which, for me anyway, would be the call for that job I always wanted, that one person who I wished would call me and need me, and really as you listen to Qohen it really makes you want to have a dialog, either with someone or yourself, about life.
As for the rest of the relevant cast, with Bainsley and Bob you see different angles to Qohen’s problem. Bob presents the teen issue of having so many expectations burden you to the point you can only try to drown out criticism and worries with music, as you still do what you are expected to do. Also, Bob I felt also presented a very interesting concept of how everyone is a possible tool if you look at it a certain way. Such as how Bainsley was a tool. One which simply had the desire to be needed. A feeling I’m sure we all have whether we want to be needed by a person, society, a business, or what have you.
And between those three we have the heart of the movie which really shows the value of human connection. For while there isn’t a strong commentary on how technology creates distance, with Qohen we are presented the idea of how technology can only advance human life but so much in certain areas. Yes, it does allow for some comforts, but it never beats a real conversation or connection. One which, even with a virtual reality therapist like Dr. Shrink-Rom, can’t be fully replicated through technology,
However, with all that said I must note how trippy and odd this film is. Not to the point its eccentricities are a turn off, at least for me, but I can imagine someone possibly getting bored watching Qohen lose his mind and maybe not catch onto the deeper meaning behind his issues. But if you are capable of understanding Qohen and the various characters past their superficial neuroses, I think you can get through the slightly lengthy movie.
Overall: TV Viewing (Rental)
While definitely a movie which makes you think and ponder about life, I feel like there is a certain amount of dedication needed to really get the film. Which I don’t say to seem pompous but with the odd sci-fi element, and every last character being very eccentric, I can see someone easily getting turned off by this film. Leading to the sole reason this is being labeled “TV Viewing” which is that I just feel what is visually seen hampers the overall message. Qohen’s issues with being mid-life; Bob’s issues with trying to live up to expectations; and Bainsley need to be needed can easily be dismissed for the world they live in is hard to connect to. Also, their eccentricities can make it so while what they say you identify with, the parts between these profound comments can make you attention waver too much to stay in tune.