Imagine a depressed Wes Anderson got high, watched a bunch of Farrelly Brothers films, then went out into the woods and remade Lord of the Flies as a buddy comedy. That's Swiss Army Man, the infamous Sundance Film Festival sensation about a delusional cast away who befriends a farting corpse that's washed up on the beach. Let that stink in for a second.
Directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert capitalize on the power of shock and awe from the very beginning. Seconds after the marooned Hank (Paul Dano) discovers a decomposing body (Daniel Radcliffe) drifting in the waves, extreme flatulence becomes not only a gag but also a key plot point.
Due to either madness or starvation, Hank begins to hallucinate and talks to the lifeless vessel as if they were friends. Eventually, the cadaver talks back, calling himself Manny, and the two begin a complicated friendship based on their equally distorted sense of memory and love.
The film gains its title from the many ways Hank uses Manny's body to stay alive, examples of which range from the practical to orgasmic. Any more explanation would ruin some of the film's more notorious moments which end up defining the film's ambitious and disturbing treatment of mental illness.
Swiss Army Man, which opens Friday, July 1, claims to sympathize with both of its fringe characters, men who've found themselves emotionally exiled from the regular world. Except it's empathy gets buried under a thick layer of cloying hipster angst and emo self-pity made worse by manipulative slow motion shots and referential music cues.
One can hardly take a second to breathe before the next triumphant crescendo (or mood swing) hits, leaving little up to the imagination. Rigor mortis be damned, the film charges forward, false spirits high, embodying the law of diminishing returns all too well.
Elivra Te Daria Mi Vida Pero La Estoy Usando: A woman becomes an amateur sleuth when she investigates her husband’s disappearance after he doesn’t return from a trip to buy cigarettes. Screens through Thursday, July 7, at the Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Our Kind of Traitor: Ewan McGregor stars in this thriller about a couple caught between the Russian mob and the British secret service.
Swiss Army Man: Paul Dano plays a marooned cast away who befriends a farting corpse (Daniel Radcliffe) that’s washed up on the beach.
The BFG: Based on Roald Dahl’s novella, the latest children’s fantasy from Steven Spielberg tells of a young orphan who is whisked away by a giant (Mark Rylance) and introduced to the world of dreams, both good and bad.
The Music of Strangers: Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble: This documentary tells the story of the famous cellist who gained international acclaim and then began a company of musicians featuring instruments from every Silk Road country.
The Phenom: When a major league pitcher mired in a long slump is sent down to the minors, past traumas begin to sneak their way to the surface. Starring Ethan Hawke and Paul Giamatti. Screens through Thursday, July 7, at the Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
The Purge: Election Year: This horror film about society’s worst impulses is certain to be entirely pertinent considering Donald Trump’s presidential campaign founded on hate, xenophobia and violence.
Tickled: A journalist begins researching a mysterious online tickling competition in this documentary by David Farrier and Dylan Reeve. Opens on Friday, July 1, at the Ken Cinema.
Wiener-Dog: One very unlucky Dachshund is passed between one oddball owner after the next, impacting their lives in complex ways. From director Todd Solodnz (Welcome to the Dollhouse).
One Time Only
American Sniper: Bradley Cooper stars as Chris Kyle, the man who claimed to be the most lethal sniper in American military history, in this biopic by Clint Eastwood. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 29, at the Arclight La Jolla Cinemas.
Sex and the City: It’s ladies night. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 29, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
Casablanca: Humphrey Bogart thinks Ingrid Bergman is the beez neez in this romantic thriller set in North Africa during the beginning of WWII. Screens at 8 p.m. Thursday – Sunday, June 29 – July 3, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
2001: A Space Odyssey: See Stanley Kubrick’s epic Sci Fi masterpiece on the big screen! Screens at 11:55 pm. Saturday, July 2, and at 11 a.m. Sunday, July 3, at the Ken Cinema.
My Neighbor Totoro: Two sisters move to rural Japan and meet a forest sprite and its woodland companions. Screens at 11 a.m. Saturday, July 2, and at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 6, at the Angelika Carmel Mountain Cinemas.
Big Trouble in Little China: Kurt Russell stars in John Carpetner’s insanely wonderful and strange action comedy about a trucker who gets caught in the middle of a supernatural war in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 5, at the Arclight La Jolla Cinemas.
Top Gun: You can be my wingman anytime. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 6, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.