Synecdoche, New York


Synecdoche, New York

Critics Consensus

Charlie Kaufman's ambitious directorial debut occasionally strains to connect, but ultimately provides fascinating insight into a writer's mind.



Total Count: 186


Audience Score

User Ratings: 57,104
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Synecdoche, New York Photos

Movie Info

Theater director Caden Cotard is mounting a new play. His life catering to suburban blue-hairs at the local regional theater in Schenectady, N.Y., is looking bleak. His wife Adele has left him to pursue her painting in Berlin, taking their young daughter Olive with her. His therapist, Madeleine Gravis, is better at plugging her best-seller than she is at counseling him. A new relationship with the alluringly candid Hazel has prematurely run aground. And a mysterious condition is systematically shutting down each of his autonomic functions, one by one. Worried about the transience of his life, he leaves his home behind. He gathers an ensemble cast into a warehouse in New York City, hoping to create a work of brutal honesty. He directs them in a celebration of the mundane, instructing each to live out their constructed lives in a growing mockup of the city outside. The years rapidly fold into each other, and Caden buries himself deeper into his masterpiece, but the textured tangle of real and theatrical relationships blurs the line between the world of the play and that of Caden's own deteriorating reality.

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Catherine Keener
as Adele Lack
Tom Noonan
as Sammy Barnathan
Josh Pais
as Dr. Eisenberg
Hope Davis
as Madeleine Gravis
Robin Weigert
as Olive (Adult)
Dianne Wiest
as Ellen Bascomb / Millicent Weems
Charles Techman
as Like Clockwork Patient
Peter Friedman
as Emergency Room Doctor
Sadie Goldstein
as Olive (4 years old)
Jerry Adler
as Caden's Father
Lynn Cohen
as Caden's Mother
Amy Wright
as Burning House Realtor
Deirdre O'Connell
as Ellen's Mother
Kat Peters
as Ellen (10 Years Old)
John Rothman
as Dentist
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Critic Reviews for Synecdoche, New York

All Critics (186) | Top Critics (49)

  • This is a classic Kaufmanesque work: bold, bizarre and utterly baffling.

    May 17, 2009 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • Synecdoche (pronounced Sih-neck-doh-kee, by the way) is beautifully acted throughout, scripted by Kaufman with the same valorous unorthodoxy as his Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and shot with real panache.

    May 15, 2009 | Rating: 3/5
  • Somehow, because it resists unlocking, it feels more serious, troubling, significant. It's as funny as it's depressing. It's as brilliant as it is baffling.

    May 15, 2009 | Rating: 5/6 | Full Review…

    Dave Calhoun

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • A toweringly ambitious and bafflingly confusing film that gives a glimpse of the daily battles going on in the director's mind.

    May 15, 2009 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

    Wendy Ide

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • The film is either a masterpiece or a massively dysfunctional act of self-indulgence and self-laceration. It has brilliance, either way: surreal, utterly distinctive, witty, gloomy in the manner that his fans will recognise and adore.

    May 15, 2009 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…
  • A difficult, maddening and elusive film that's also intriguing, profound and darkly funny.

    May 15, 2009 | Rating: 3/5

Audience Reviews for Synecdoche, New York

  • Oct 08, 2015
    Intentionally or no, this film is an entertaining and farcical trip. Synecdoche is mainly about finding out the truth about oneself by looking at one's relationships to other human beings. It is a romantic film, but in an amazingly absurd one at that. To enjoy this film, one has to be able to just go with everything that happens (all manner of weird and crazy things) and maybe make some sense out of it or not. (And for those that do like a challenge, there is plenty of brain candy strewn throughout the background of the film.) Synecdoche is reminiscent of Woody Allen films (as well as 8 1/2 and Barton Fink), though the energy level is higher: more manic and more depressive. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is a great fit for the lead role with a performance that highly projective, the world is his shadow. The main character is honestly and apologetically imperfect (again, reminiscent of the Woody Allen characters, but also very different) and striving. It is hard to know who to recommend the film to since it is just a bit on the dark side. Those who love arthouse films will probably pick up on a lot that is in it, and enjoy it. But there is also plenty in there, plenty of drama and humor, for the casual viewer. Whether or not you enjoy it, may be highly dependent on whether or not you are in the mood for the experience.
    Robert B Super Reviewer
  • Sep 15, 2015
    A portentous, pretentious film that draws on Fellini's 8 1/2, Bergman and Woody Allen but never manages to become an original, coherent piece on its own. The work is so fragmented and delights so much in its own playful fragmentation that it becomes tedious in the end and whatever existential message it contains feels convoluted and shallow. Charlie Kaufman, who is famous for bringing post-modern sensibilities in screenwriting to Hollywood audiences, gives in under his own ambition here. The actors are doing some excellent work though and they are the only reason to see the film.
    George M Super Reviewer
  • Jun 15, 2014
    Directors C Super Reviewer
  • Feb 23, 2014
    One of the greatest films of the past decade is Charlie Kaufman's ambitious excursion into the writer's mind, and the struggle of creation in a deranged and haunting surrealist piece with themes explored in time, loneliness, and artistic extent to greater establish the protagonist's deception between reality and creation. It is a beautiful film, encompassing all audiences would recognize from Kaufman's previous works, but the extending philosophy on modern perception is what stands high amongst his other scripts. It's not his best work, coming just below Eternal Sunshine as the piece tends to think high of itself from an author's view oppose to the cinematic, but the fine details which carry the piece through it's opaque narrative only add to it's beauty and unfamiliarity.
    Bryce I Super Reviewer

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