October 15, 2010

Rabid Rewind: Cold Souls

Cold Souls
starring Paul Giamatti, Emily Watson, David Strathairn, and Lauren Ambrose
written & directed by Sophie Barthes
E1 Films (2010)

In this movie, Paul Giamatti plays an actor named--wait for it--Paul Giamatti. And with that, my thoughts drift back to Being John Malkovich. Well, if you liked that movie, imagine if the entire movie had been told from John Malkovich's point of view, because the strange journey Giamatti takes in this film is presented through his disoriented and exasperated side of things--and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Paul is stressed out over his next theater role, so much so he feels like there is a great weight bearing down on his soul. The solution: remove the soul. It turns out that this universe includes a company that can easily, and quite legally, remove your soul and place it in storage. Without the soul, a person is free from all those burdening emotional outbursts and dramatic mood swings, putting everything on a dull, even keel.

Each soul looks different once it is removed, taking on a small corporeal existence safely stored in a glass tube, and usually as a drab gray object. In Paul's case, his soul looks remarkably like a chickpea.

But as Paul discovers that his acting ability suffers, not to mention his marriage, without a soul, he tries to get it back. Enter conflict. The company has lost his soul and it's now somewhere in the world being traded on the black market.

For such a crazy premise, the whole movie is played at a very low key--almost casual, really. Paul gives a very good performance with plenty of self-deprication through the course of the film. But when the latter half of the film turns into a globe-trotting exploit as he searches for his soul, I couldn't help but think that the believability suffered. Not becuase of the premise, but because I doubted to some extent the degree to which he might actually take such a course of action and align himself with the kinds of people he does.

Overall, it's an entertaining film, though not a barn burner. If you're a fan of Giamatti's work or just enjoy those quirky "As Himself" movie roles, this is one to check out.

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