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2016 gets a dose of weirdness with “Swiss Army Man”

swiss army man
Last week, audiences got one of the oddest movies in some time with Swiss Army Man, an independent film unlike any other. Not only is this a singular cinematic experience, but over the weekend distributor A24 managed to have it open to solid limited theatrical box office. That unexpected success has not only buoyed an initially pegged as unmarketable flick, but has also shown off just how well A24 can handle tricky material. The movie easily could have been dumped, but they weren’t having that. For those who have seen it, it’s apparently a memorable experience, for better or worse, and that’s a special kind of an endorsement.

How does one describe this movie? Well, in the broadest sense of the word, the plot follows a depressed man named Hank (Paul Dano) as he’s about to commit suicide on a deserted island. Right as his life is about to come to an end, he sees a corpse floating in the water. This isn’t just any corpse though, it’s Manny (Daniel Radcliffe), a flatulent one with many skills. In addition to farting, he can provide transportation as a makeshift jet ski, work as an axe, and other fun things. Together, they set off on a surreal adventure. The flick is co-written and co-directed by the duo of Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (known as The Daniels), while Mary Elizabeth Winstead co-stars as well. Told you it sounded like a rather weird one, didn’t I?

Apparently, this one has done better with critics leading up to its release than it did back during its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. Back in Park City, folks didn’t know what to make of the flick and absolutely savaged it. Now, reviews have been split, but some big time praise has been heaped upon it, especially for the originality on display. I’m already a big fan of Dano and Winstead, so that was a feather in its cap going in, but Kwan and Scheinert have apparently jumped started a cult following here. It’ll be fascinating to see what they choose to do next after this.

I’m confident that Oscar won’t pay any attention to this one, but Swiss Army Man could see some love with places like the Independent Spirit Awards. There’s also a chance that the Gotham Awards take a shine to it. The only certainty is that the Academy won’t ever seriously consider this. Perhaps that’s a shame (honestly, it is, as a member of the Academy should seek to see everything that’s out there), and maybe one day that will change, but right now that’s just the way it is. Voters tend not to be big on farting, earnest a plot point as it may be here. Alas, that’s just the way the awards season cookie crumbles.

You can’t help but feel pleased that something like Swiss Army Man can hit with audiences. It’s another feather in the cap of A24, a distributor quickly becoming the most exciting one out there. Just look at what they’re handling and how successful they’ve slowly become. It’s just a matter of time before they rocket a dark horse contender to Academy Award glory (and technically they did that last year with Room, though that was closer to a prestige title for them). While I doubt Swiss Army Man is that film, it’s an oddball that’s become an unlikely success of sorts, and that should fuel your curiosity here. Especially if you’re a fan of Dano or Radcliffe, why not check them out in something that’s completely different? You may very well be glad that you did…

Be sure to check out Swiss Army Man, in theaters now on an expanding basis!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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