“You’ve got to make it a little weirder or a little uglier or a little more drunk.”
I want you to see this film. I want you to see this film so badly. And all you need for motivation is this:
Paul Dano rides Daniel Radcliffe’s farting corpse across the high seas.
That’s it folks. There it is. Open and shut case. You’re buying tickets, grabbing popcorn, great!
But perhaps you need more. I’ll oblige, because I love this film.
Sculpted by the visionary directing team, Daniels – consisting of Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, the minds behind DJ Snake’s Turn Down the What music video – comes a truly bizarre tale of friendship and love between a man and a magical corpse.
Marooned on an island and withstanding the elements is Hank (Paul Dano), a lonely man, dying of dehydration, hunger, and worst of all, boredom. Devoid of hope he decides to hang himself, but just as he’s about to jump he spots Manny (Daniel Radcliffe) laying by the shore.
He runs over only to discover Manny is dead and quite flatulent. So flatulent in fact, that he is able to propel his body along the water. Thinking fast, Hank uses Manny’s ass-gas to his advantage, and rides him like a jet-ski to the mainland. Only to find himself once again lost – this time in the wilderness. Now he’ll drag Manny along and use his many ‘gifts’ (such as his tree chopping karate chop, and penis compass) to get back to the girl of his dreams, Sarah (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).
Okay, so it’s clear what you’re getting yourself into. It’s absurd and hilarious but what can not be understated is that this film is a beautiful ode to humanity, creativity, and love. And masked under the fart jokes and masturbation talk is the journey of one person who has lost all hope and needs help finding the light again.
Poetic, dark and at times completely innocent, Swiss Army Man has this weird pulse like no other film I’ve ever seen before, and in its own weird way, embodies the human experience entirely despite its unconventional narrative.
Perhaps the best way to sum up this film is a quote from an interview on consequenceofsound.net in which the film’s composer Andy Hull recalls a note he received from the Daniels which said, “You’ve got to make it a little weirder or a little uglier or a little more drunk.”.
That’s Swiss Army Man in a sentence. A little weirder, a little uglier and a little more drunk.
And speaking of the music, holy crap this soundtrack is amazing. Like the film’s narrative, it’s daringly unique and oddly commercial and has received high praise from star Daniel Radcliffe who thinks it should be nominated for an Oscar.
Composed by Manchester Orchestra (for whom the Daniel’s had previously collaborated with) the film’s music is best described as hauntingly vulnerable, catchy chants. The songs often serve to underscore moments of revelation for the characters, and at times, even flat out declare them, such as in River Rocket when lead singer Andy Hull sings, “Everything everywhere matters to everything”. But more than that the main song, A Better Way, serves as the running melody for the entire film, creeping into the background of other songs, and creating a unifying rhythm to the insanity going on viscerally. Also, the songs feature the vocal talents of the film’s stars, who are just brilliant.
The chemistry between Hank and Manny is the lifeblood of this film that for the most part, features two characters exclusively, and Dano and Radcliffe have it in spades. Forming two halves of a whole, they complement each other both in performance and literal character needs – Manny needs Hank physically to move him around and Hank needs Manny to emotionally veer him back to the light.
What’s particularly of note in these performances is Radcliffe’s transformation from a corpse to a living person, which is drawn out over time, and imaginably, was quite taxing on him, especially when he had to convincingly portray a lifeless corpse for the first thirty minutes of the film. And even though Dano wasn’t tested as physically as his partner, it’s arguable that his performance was equally difficult in its subtly and depth.
Just amazing performances by these phenomes who like all the elements in this film, were fearless and compelling.
Which really speaks to the skilled hands of the Daniels who by pushing all boundaries in performances, music, and narrative were able to find a unique synchronicity. They had a real vision with this one and it’s hard to believe this is their feature debut considering how original, complex, and universal it is.
Which brings me to my final point.
I think this film is for everyone. It has the pacing, cleverness, heart, performances, range of emotions, and balancing of tone that everyone can enjoy. So the only reason people won’t like it (like for instance the Sundance critics who walked out) is that they won’t see past what is deemed as juvenile humour, but I feel like they’re losing out because of artistic prejudice. It’s one thing to not vibe with a film, but it’s another to dismiss it entirely because of certain content, like for instance fart jokes. Under that logic anyone who hates fish should not watch Finding Dory and anyone who denounces gun violence should toss out their copy of Die Hard. Being able to set aside personal bias encourages critical thinking and honest analysis of art, and hell, any real world issue.
Plus, in my opinion, it leads to a richer life. I like that I can enjoy the nuance of Mad Men and the zaniness of SpongeBob. Because ultimately if I’m open to experiencing it, it’s more quality entertainment for me.
But perhaps there’s no greater argument for this films mass appeal than the fact that while I was watching this film I was seated between a trucker and a hipster who were both laughing their asses off. If those two individuals from entirely different backgrounds could unite over this, surely there’s something more going on here.
Please check this film out. You won’t regret it.