Published Aug 06, 2009Cold Souls opens promisingly enough, with a Charlie Kaufman-esque version of Paul Giamatti (played by Paul Giamatti) hamming up the character-within-the-already-hammy-character during rehearsals for Uncle Vanyathe actor is stuck in. After reading about a literal soul-removal process in The New Yorkerof all rags (how did this little procedure bypass the inevitable 60 Minutestreatment?), Paul undergoes the procedure to help his actor's block.
Director Sophie Barthes makes no attempt to explain exactly how a soul is physically removed, despite most of the film's budget seemingly sunk into the slick retro-futurist sets. From here, instead of contemplating the value of the soul in humorous or moving ways, the film gets bogged down in a dull and convoluted entanglement involving Russian soul-smugglers, completely robbing Giamatti of any chance to exploit the potential of finally playing a truly soulless character.
Even the talented supporting cast can't save the film from its inherent lack of inspiration. While it is always nice to see David Strathairn inhabiting a thankless supporting role with his wry and spry manner, the underused comic talents of Emily Watson as Paul's wife are once again underutilized, allowing only her wonderful face for concern to show and little else.
Barthes, who also wrote the film, is obviously striving for the same type of fantastic whimsy Charlie Kaufman achieved with his romantic masterpiece Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which revolved around the same themes of modern technology used to replace and erase the elements of hurt that create humanity within individuals.
And much in the same way audiences surmise Kaufman's alter egos do not necessarily reflect the man himself, one can only hope the miserable Paul Giamatti represented in Cold Soulsis merely another cartoon-ish exaggeration. By film's end, audiences will realize the film's title is more apt than they may care for. (E1)