Matthew Lickona 4 p.m., Feb. 17
- Rated PG-13 | 1 hour, 37 minutes
- Official website
Off the same wall as Being John Malkovich. Paul Giamatti, being Paul Giamatti, is feeling the burden of his soul in the course of rehearsals for a stage production of Uncle Vanya, unable to locate the requisite lightness of touch. At the suggestion of his agent, the dyspeptic actor tries an option he had never before heard of, though it’s been written up in The New Yorker and listed in the Yellow Pages: soul removal and temporary storage. The resulting lightness, plus emptiness, plus ennui, only worsens his portrayal, so he tries the stopgap solution of renting the soul of an anonymous Russian poet. (The Russians are world leaders in soul trafficking.) By the time he decides he wants his own soul back, it — the exact likeness of a chickpea — has been stolen and transplanted into a Russian TV soap-opera actress under the misapprehension she was getting the soul of Al Pacino (who’s not, let’s be clear, in the movie). Synopsis cannot help but overplay the zaniness. Writer and director Sophie Barthes, whether or not burdened by her own soul, likewise lacks the requisite lightness of touch. An oatmeal-gray image, a whisper-quiet sound level, and a drifting plot propulsion combine to immerse any whimsicality into a miasma of angst and anomie, more suited perhaps to an adaptation of a Camus novel. Even a fantasy, or especially a fantasy, will be expected to some degree to define its terms, to give the audience in this instance an idea of what a soul consists of, what constitutes its purview, what differentiates it from, say, the prefrontal cortex. It’s apparent from Giamatti’s performance that he was given no idea either. David Strathairn, Emily Watson, Dina Korzun, Katheryn Winnick. 2009.