Cold Souls

Release Date: August 7, 2009
Limited release

Does anyone else get a real Misery vibe from her?

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102/169 Max Braden I see what they're going for, but if Uncle Vanya is so "woe is me" why would I want to watch it in movie form any more than on stage?

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Paul Giamatti playing Paul Giamatti? I already want to see this. Paul Giamatti playing Paul Giamatti playing Uncle Vanya? Okay, now you’re just messing with me.

And that set-up is just the tip of the Star Destroyer. Cold Souls has a deliciously inventive premise. Consumed with angst stemming from his upcoming performance of the Chekhov play, Giamatti stumbles on a New Yorker article about the new technology of soul extraction and storage. Apparently once separated from the soul you are free of the emotional baggage it burdens you with.

Giamatti goes to the offices of Dr. Flintstein, played by David Strathairn and has the procedure. But when he later decides he wants his soul back, he finds it has been stolen and sold on the black market. Giamatti has been a victim of soul trafficking. This leads him on a chase that takes him all the way to Russia where his soul has been sold to a loopy, talentless soap opera actress.

Before you get too excited, I should tell you that Charlie Kaufman has nothing to do with this project despite his presence in nearly every article written about it. Sophia Barnes serves as writer/director, and her only other credits are short films. It seems like a lot had to go right to get this thing made. The original idea reportedly came from a dream Barnes had wherein Woody Allen played a role. After winning a script competition at the Nantucket Film Festival, Barnes serendipitously bumped into Paul Giamatti, for whom she wrote the script. It must have been good to get Giamatti onboard. It isn’t hard to see why investors would be interested in a project with that plot and Giamatti as the star. But without a doubt, the preexistence of Being John Malkovich is the reason this film got made.

The supporting cast is promising as well. Along with Strathairn, Emily Watson and Lauren Ambrose step in from of the camera. Allow me a tangent regarding these two ladies. Just like with last year's Synecdoche, New York, which featured Waston, Michelle Williams, Samantha Morton and Catharine Keener, again here are two fantastic actresses getting a chance to play, presumably interesting, fleshed out characters. That’s like making a movie with Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Daniel Day Lewis and Javier Bardem, which isn’t happening any time soon. Why are there only two or so movies a year where good actresses get to be interesting? Stop casting Megan Fox! Arrgh.

Sorry about that. So where was I? The mid summer release by Samuel Goldwyn, which acquired the film after its run at Sundance, is puzzling. It’s about a month early to be part of awards season, and aren’t most pedantic film lovers on vacation in August? One would think it would at the very least be a great “for your consideration” showcase for Giamatti who, while still on the forefront, has slipped slightly since his Sideways days. So releasing it so early suggests the movie’s not a knockout.

But at the very least it has to be worth the price of admission to see Giamatti lampoon himself. And I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Ms. Barnes does a spot-on Charlie Kaufman. (Tom Macy/BOP)

Vital statistics for Cold Souls
Main Cast Paul Giamatti, David Strathairn, Emily Watson
Supporting Cast Dina Korzun, Lauren Ambrose, Katheryn Winnick
Director Sophie Barthes
Screenwriter Sophie Barthes
Distributor Samuel Goldwyn Pictures
Official Site
Rating PG-13
Screen Count 2
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture



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