Movie review: Swiss Army Man

The Daniel Radcliffe/Paul Dano vehicle Swiss Army Man is hallucinatory, ludicrous, disgusting and emotionally rewarding at once.  The relationship between Paul Dano’s suicidal shipwreck survivor and Daniel Radcliffe’s Dead-body-that-washed-up-on-the-beach is heartwarming, hilarious, and strangely romantic.  Some people may be turned off by literally constant bouts flatulence, divining compass erections, and human beings being turned into fountains, but they may miss out on some truly joyful cinema.

From the instant it starts, Swiss Army Man announces its intention to be completely ridiculous, unbound by any common sense or physical laws of motion.  Dano’s summary of the events at the opening of the film give the audience its first big laugh.  “This man saved my life, when he allowed me to ride him like a jet ski, propelled by farts.”  Towards the end of this statement, Dano’s voice sort of trails off, because this reference to the physically impossible events in the rest of the film would by itself break the fourth wall.

The fourth wall is broken so constantly in the first half of the film that it might seem like overkill, but early in the movie, when Radcliffe’s corpse somehow gains a voice, this insane passion project gains real emotional depth.  As Paul Dano’s character explains the workings of the world to Radcliffe’s corpse, their relationship deepens, and each begins to rely on the other.  They have deep, emotionally resonant conversations about love and masturbation that are surprisingly heartwarming, and consistently hilarious.

As Swiss Army Man ends, several revelations about these characters and their backstories change everything.  The story takes several turns so crazy, they would have ruined a movie that wasn’t already nonsensical, but here they are used to wonderful effect.  All the insane plot developments, as explained by the main character at the end of the film, combine to make a story that is beautiful, hilarious, and life-affirming.

 

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Movie review: Swiss Army Man

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