Flatulence is a key element of “Swiss Army Man”, but the film isn’t exactly a comedy.
The feature debut of writer-directors Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Quan doesn’t really know what it wants to be. There’s a running theme of loneliness and alienation. There are elements of magical realism and of a buddy road adventure. And lots of disturbing things happen to a dead body.
Ultimately a sad tale about a man’s deep yearning for connection, “Swiss Army Man” is so tonally erratic that it leaves the viewer more unsettled than actually moved.
Hank (Paul Dano) is stranded on an island and about to take his own life when a body (Daniel Radcliffe) washes up on shore. It’s a young man’s corpse, and it is farting. Hank climbs aboard the corpse and rides it across the sea, somehow propelled by the constant flatulence.
It’s outrageous and bizarre, and it leaves Hank newly inspired to find his way home.
Hank brings the corpse along as he treks through the woods of a new found land, looking for civilization. The more time he spends with the body, the more he discovers its practicalities in the wilderness. He uses it as a water catcher during a rainstorm, pressing on the corpse’s belly to release water from its mouth like a human fountain. It’s pretty gross, but mild compared to what’s to come.
Hank befriends the body and eventually, it starts talking. He says his name is Manny. He’s an innocent, asking questions about life and love. Hank explains the world to him, revealing his own lonely life story in the process. His mother died when he was young; his father is dismissive and verbally abusive. Hank dreamed of a life full of love but was too scared to go after it.
As in “Love & Mercy” and “There Will Be Blood”, Dano is a superb actor who conveys confidence and vulnerability simultaneously. His Hank is strange and sad but tender and sweet.
Hank doesn’t just tell Manny about the life they’re missing, he shows it to him, building a makeshift movie theater out of garbage he finds in the forest. Hank crafts a pretend bus the same way, moving magazine pictures outside what would be the window to simulate for Manny the riding experience. He strings Manny up like a marionette so they can dance together.
But Hank also uses Manny’s body as a perverse multi-use tool (as in Swiss Army knife.) The corpse becomes a crossbow, a razor, a wood-chopper, a gun, a lighter and an erection-based compass.
Radcliffe is game. Though limited by his character’s dead-ness, he keeps Manny lively with expressive eyes and mostly limp body language.
With only two characters onscreen for most of the film, casting capable actors was critical. The production design is another star: “Swiss Army Man” is set in wild, green landscapes, and the art department built all of Hank’s intricate garbage creations from found materials in the forest.
Beyond Hank’s desperation, the line between fantasy and reality isn’t entirely clear.
The filmmakers have said they came up with the concept for “Swiss Army Man” after imagining the opening scene of Hank riding a gas-powered Manny across the sea. They wanted to use the idea of people hiding flatulence as a metaphor for hiding emotions.
But farts aren’t feelings. “Swiss Army Man” hints at something deeper that it doesn’t quite reach.
“Swiss Army Man,” an A24 release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for “language and sexual material.” Running time: 95 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.
MPAA definition for R: Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
Cinema’s ultimate villain, Darth Vader, is set to make a comeback with a menacing appearance in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” industry magazine Entertainment Weekly said on Wednesday.
The first standalone “Star Wars” story, “Rogue One” is set just before “A New Hope” — the original film in the blockbuster series — and stars Felicity Jones alongside Mads Mikkelsen and Forest Whitaker.
EW said on its website it would reveal “never-before-seen characters while also reintroducing a few classic ones” in the new issue, out Friday.
“We’re confirming a big one on our cover: the galactic man in black himself, Darth Vader,” it added.
Rumors of a Vader return in British filmmaker Gareth Edwards’ contribution to the “Star Wars” canon began to circulate in April with the release of the first trailer.
The 100-second teaser featured a retread of John Williams’ familiar “Star Wars” score, including a snippet of the infamous “Imperial March,” used to signify Vader’s approach.
EW writer Anthony Breznican told ABC’s “Good Morning America” the trainee Jedi turned Sith Lord “kind of looms large over the plot, even when he’s not necessarily on screen.”
Director Krennic, a new villainous character played by Australian actor Ben Mendelsohn, finds he has “Vader looming in the background over his shoulder, making sure that he gets the job done,” Breznican said.
EW did not say which actor had been hired for Vader’s latest big screen outing, due to hit theaters in the United States on Dec 16.
The character was voiced in the original trilogy by James Earl Jones, now 85, while 80-year-old David Prowse donned the iconic cape and helmet.
Jones, 32, who was Oscar-nominated for her role opposite Eddie Redmayne in “The Theory of Everything,” plays rebel Jyn Erso, who has notched up a string of convictions for forgery, assault and theft.
She is sent on a mission to help investigate “a major weapons test” — better known as the Death Star in development — and find out how to destroy it.
Last year’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” made more than $2 billion worldwide, and analysts have backed “Rogue One” to dominate this year’s box office.
But entertainment magazine The Hollywood Reporter, citing anonymous sources, reported in May that Disney had demanded reshoots for “Rogue One” to lighten the mood and “restore a sense of fun to the adventure.”
Executives reportedly complained that the film’s tone was more akin to that of a war movie than “what a classic ‘Star Wars’ movie should feel like.”
It was not immediately clear if Vader had been added before or after the setback. (Agencies)
By Sandy Cohen