Swiss Army Man
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Swiss Army Man

Every so often I come across a movie that has a premise is so ridiculous that you wonder about the mental state of its filmmaker. Is without reservation that I place the movie on the consideration here on that list as an example for this year, ‘Swiss Army Man.' Basically, it’s ‘Weekend at Bernie’s’ with a decidedly romantic twist. The film is puerile with an overdependence on crude humor concerning essential bodily functions. With crass sexual references in a corpse is a superhero. Superficially, there are few elements in this movie to connect it to reality. The thing is I found it to be one of the most enjoyable films of the year. My main reason behind this assessment is that one of the aspects of the film described above is incorrect. The strongest point of this movie is how it can make a strong emotional bond with the audience. Every element of the characters in a considerable portion of their situations is entirely ludicrous, yet beneath this façade of fantasy. There is a certain degree of poignancy, which provides fertile ground for the audience to become connected to the heart of the film. The strongest contribution to the success of this movie is the juxtaposition of what can only be called ‘theater of the absurd, with pure fantasy. For Like so many films, it is necessary to approach the movie in the proper frame of order to achieve the best result while watching this story temporarily abandon your adult sensibilities and let your inner child come out and play. For those convinced that as an ‘R-rated’ comedy contains themes too mature for that child that remains to lurk behind the restrictions imposed by adult responsibility. As if while in the school yard during recess well in didn’t tell inappropriate jokes or pass around a battered old copy of Playboy. After the whole inner child analogy is a metaphor, we are still old enough for the MPAA’s arbitrary rating. Simply put, avoid any inclination to think the film over, just sit there and enjoy free of the mature need for justification or rational causality.

When we first are introduced to Hank (Paul Dano) has already been marooned on an island for a considerable amount of time. Unable to obtain the necessities of survival with all hope of rescue faded into oblivion Hank prepares a makeshift rope to hang himself. Apparently, Hank had not seen the MythBusters episode about crafting ad hoc rope and his attempted suicide fails when it breaks. After reinforcing the line he tries again, but this time, he sees the body of a man washed up on the shore.

Managing to become extricated from the makeshift noose Hank rushes over to the body only to find that is already dead. As the surf begins to float the body out to sea, an uncontrollable burst of flatulence starts to propel the corpse along the water. Hank comes up with an idea and begins to experiment with a new mode of transportation. Hank names the dead body, Manny (Daniel Radcliffe), in an attempt to combat his bitter loneliness. Hank climbs on its back and by using its powerful flatus turns Manny into a kind of water ski. If Tom Hanks can anthropomorphize a volleyball with a handprint, this can hardly be considered too strange. Watching Hanks unsuccessful suicide attempts were old-fashioned slapstick humor but now seeing him on top of a well-known actor such as Mr. Radcliffe, his face bouncing up and down in the waves, we have left rational thought behind and stepped into the wonderfully entertaining world of fantasy. Hank rides Manny across the water until it comes to the shore of the mainland. He is still far from any signs of civilization, so he decides to build a camp as he decides upon his next step. It begins to rain, so Hank pulls Manny into a cave, to wait out the storm. During the night runoff from the storm pours into Manny’s mouth. The next morning Hank is overcome by first to discover that Manny has several additional abilities conducive to survival. By depressing his stomach, Manny produces a spout of potable water. Joyfully he keeps pumping the corpse quenching his thirst on the issuing water.

Slowly, Hank notices a surprising change. His is formerly living best friend; Manny begins to mutter gradually becoming sufficiently understandable to communicate. It’s not as if Manny undergoes an immediate resurrection. Rather in a manner highly conducive to a greater narrative impact, Manny gradually regains a modicum of his humanity. It serves the entertainment value of the story Manny continues to remain ostensibly deceased. Their friendship continues to grow stronger sparking a transformation. Manny responds to Hank with a developing level of cognizance. An undeniable part of the charm of this film is how familiar we are with Daniel Radcliffe as an actor. Over a decade we watched as he grew up before our very eyes. He matured from a shy schoolboy to a confident young man with the destiny to save the world of magic. There is such a level of absurdity to see an accomplished actor portraying a corpse, ridden like a jet ski at a shoreside resort, his buttocks are exposed to avoid hindering the ‘exhaust.' I found the utter silliness to be truly impressive as Mr. Radcliffe’s command of his facial expressions remains so utterly under his control. A talented actor has many tools to depend on upon to provide a proper performance. Two of the most powerful of these are body language and vocal inflection; both are required for the performer to convey the essence of their character properly. Due to the peculiar circumstances of the role that places the onus of the portrayal substantially on Mr. Radcliffe face. It is evident that this young man paid attention to his acting lessons for growing up. Limited to things such as a subtle grin or the nuances of placing his eyebrows properly, he can convey the necessary character development to the audience. Manny, although dead, is somehow responding to the friendship so necessary to Hanks mental survival.

As Hank experiments with Manny’s abilities, he finds that his arm can chop wood expediting building a shelter efficiently. When his hunger becomes unbearable, Hank discovers that placing pebbles in Manny’s mouth and forcefully pressing down on him, the propelling the rocks out of his mouth with projectile force creating a shotgun affect deadly to small birds and game. Starting a campfire is easy by making a spark near Manny’s buttocks during one of his on command farts. When Manny catches sight of a swimsuit issue of a magazine his natural male reaction creates a pointer that allows Hank a compass of sorts, leading them to civilization. They spend a considerable time at a camp that Hank builds, relying heavily on Manny’s many abilities. But Hank notices the screensaver on Henry’s telephone inquiries about it. The picture is that of a young redheaded woman, her face, displaying a peaceful happiness that is so distant from Hanks current situation. Manny pulls Hank into several deeply philosophical conversations. Inquiries of the partially sentient corpse provided communication best described as a well-constructed Socratic learning experience.

A significant portion of the story is devoted to Hank embellishing their camp with numerous contrivances used as props in the furtherance of a fantasy shared by the curious friends. The young woman on the screen saver, Sarah (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) pictured on a bus, so Hank begins to elaborate in response to Manny’s questions. Hank constructs a bus to have Manny fantasy experience the initial stages of meeting a pretty young woman, the mutual attraction, and the first date. Hank builds a movie theater complete with shadow puppets, a restaurant and several other locations woven into this fantastic love story. To complete the illusion in a distinctly creepy and surreal manner, Hank fashions a red wig and costumes in a dress to play the part of Sarah for Manny. Lines of gender identification were blurred as Hank continues to portray Sarah. There is an intrinsic complexity to the emotional foundation of the story that leads up to a satisfying conclusion that is not entirely predictable. This film is for people with an appreciation for the wonderfully weird; For anyone willing to stop overthinking a story and enjoy it at face value.

bulletDeleted Scenes
bulletQ&A With Filmmakers
bulletSwiss Army Man: Behind The Scenes
bullet"Making Of Manny" Featurette
bulletAudio Commentary

Posted 10/10/2016

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