This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
purkka’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
What do you get when you combine an unsubstantial dream logic premise with aggressively unfunny jokes (and about two of them in total), incel nonsense, completely interchangeable pop culture references, and analysis of society as deep as "to the Joker, Crazy Frog is just a frog"? A serious contender for the prestigious award of being the worst movie I've ever seen, apparently.
Swiss Army Man blends the worst aspects of a fever dream, a Tumblr reblog chain from 2010 (AND THEN DANIEL RADCLIFFE'S CORPSE–), and something you'd find on a listicle about the top 10 weirdest and most cursed music videos of all time. It barely feels like a movie. With how much information it needs to get across by making the main character pointlessly monologue at himself, the story seems totally unfit for the medium of cinema.
There is no tension or drama here; if the basic plot was not bizarre enough, the unreal visuals of Paul Dano constructing his incel fantasies from garbage he finds from the woods finish the job of stopping the film from feeling like a tangible thing happening to characters in a world. The fact that everything is constantly undercut with self-aware comments doesn't help. Isn't it WEIRD how Daniel Radcliffe is a farting corpse??? Yeah man, I guess it is. So do you have any other jokes
Nominally, Swiss Army Man is about being weird and not fitting in, but there is really nothing to this theme. It feels like the purest thesis statement the movie makes is the running gag where the r-slur is said, immediately followed by someone noting that you shouldn't say it. Hey, isn't it cool how if you do something gross and problematic and then say that it's gross and problematic... then what? Is it funny? Is how you should not say slurs just one of those arbitrary rules of society? Or is it a sign of the protagonist's growth that he keeps noting how saying slurs is bad? Or is the movie deliberately undermining itself by continuing to say the slur in spite of pretending to realize that it's bad to do so?
I mean, I have no idea what any of that is supposed to signify, but it feels very in line with how the protagonist's troubled incel fantasies are treated – the movie acknowledges them as being kind of bad, but rejects the notion that he needs to change in any way. In that direction, at least. Honestly, this might be just me, but I feel like you shouldn't make a movie that is simultaneously about a) a creepy man who stalks a woman who only exists as a nondescript object for both him and the narrative on the whole, and b) a man who grows to realize that society is bad or whatever and that you should just be the gross and creepy person you really are. Maybe those should be two different movies! Just saying!
The performances are truly bad, with Paul Dano being a completely unlikeable gremlin and Radcliffe, I guess, successfully playing the concept of Daniel Radcliffe. It feels like the casting itself was the entire joke with that character. Regardless, if there is something compelling about the relationship between the protagonists, it's completely buried under the tiresome wackiness of one of them being a corpse. There is nothing to get emotionally invested in.
The movie doesn't look that bad, I guess. Someone should really cut it into a music video, preserving all the good stuff – some of the visuals – and losing all the bad – the characters, the dialogue, the pacing, the themes, and all the rest. There were enough montages that it even kind of felt like one already.
Anyway, congrats to the Daniels for the definite upward trajectory of their career! If you ignore The Death of Dick Long being slightly more tolerable than EEAAO, since it was only directed by one of them, the line even goes directly up. To the fucking moon, I guess.