Say this for Harry Potter–he’s a risk taker. Daniel Radcliffe is only 27 years old, and has been world famous for (at the very least) 15 years, since first appearing in the film series based on J. K. Rowling’s incredibly popular fantasy books. But halfway through that 8-film trial, Mr. Radcliffe portrayed Alan Strang on stage, in London and New York, in a revival of Peter Shaffer’s risque “Equus”. Then a few years back, he played beat poet Allen Ginsberg on film, in the low-budget art piece, “Kill Your Darlings”. I admire that streak in Daniel–especially considering I have yet to see a “Harry Potter” movie. He certainly doesn’t rest on his mainstream laurels. “Swiss Army Man” is not mainstream.
Hank (fellow risk-taker Paul Dano…quite good, as always), is marooned on a desert island, and eventually decides to commit suicide. Failing in his first attempt, he ends up spotting a person washed-up on the beach. After running over to examine him, he discovers that the man is dead. Then he hears flatulence. But realizes the corpse is simply evacuating its bowels. However, it just keeps on farting. So, Hank decides to utilize the gaseous deceased, by riding the man like a jet-ski back to the mainland. Yes…via fart power. Soon, the dead man is talking to Hank, as he attempts to wind his way home. Hank dubs him “Manny”, and he role plays with his mostly inanimate friend–as well as using him to obtain water, and as a weapon, and as a tool…just like he was used as a conveyance. Manny proves to be a regular “swiss army” man. Their journey eventually leads them to Sarah (a fine Mary Elizabeth Winstead), after being sparked to find her from a cell phone picture.
What’s real, what’s imagined, what’s metaphor? I have my ideas…but you tell me. Is it all kind of silly and juvenile? Yeah, but writers/directors Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan manage to mine some real pathos here too. Is it all worthwhile? I guess. It was hard for me to work up much enthusiasm after a while, though. I guess I found it a little too easy. Maybe a little bit strained? An admirable attempt at something, however. Oh, mainstream movie goers will hate it, so bear that in mind. They’ll label it ridiculous or offensive, or some other kind of write-off description in the hard held habit of casting away anything that comes off a bit strange, or unusual. I wasn’t offended by it…but I wasn’t completely enthralled either. It’s very well acted, and it boasts a provocative screenplay. Also, a bold directorial style. Give it a try. You’ve never seen Harry Potter like this.