Swiss Army Man: A Giant Middle Finger to the Indie Movie Industry

 Last week, I saw the buzzed about and completely unprecedented Swiss Army Man, a film starring Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe, by the directing duo known as The Daniels. (Which consists of Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert.) If you haven't heard about this movie already, it caused quite a stir at its Sundance premier this winter, when a few critics actually walked out of the theater. To understand why, I guess I should tell you the premise. Swiss Army Man is about a young man (Paul Dano) who is trapped on a deserted island and is quite literally at the end of his rope (he is about to commit suicide) when a waterlogged corpse named Manny (Daniel Radcliffe) washes up on shore, and begins farting. If you can believe it, the film only gets weirder, cruder, and crazier from there. 


 The whole time, you’re just kind of sitting there thinking: what the hell does this mean? But by the end, almost reluctantly, you realize: It means nothing. And that’s the point. In my opinion, this film is a giant (admittedly playful) “F*** YOU” to the indie movie genre as a whole. In fact, if you compare it to the other hit indie movies of late, (for instance, Colin Farrel's The Lobster), it is absolutely a satire of it. This genre is known for doing weird things but making it mean something. I’m talking about Her, The Lobster, etc. Weird premises are the norm in this realm, but this one takes the cake. This movie does a lot of weird things, but in the end all of that means nothing. And by meaning nothing, it means something. The meaninglessness of this film, and audience's collective outrage in reaction to it, speaks to our need for every film to have greater meaning, rather than just being an enjoyable ride. 


 Everything has to be cultural commentary nowadays, and even though I personally find that great, it was definitely refreshing to watch a film that was strange and traumatic and crude, and just know that that’s all it was. It was like the 21 Jump Street of indie movies. Weird, hilarious, refreshing, entertaining, and you didn’t have to think too hard about it. Usually at the end of indie movies you’re sitting there with your hypercritical hipster glasses on, drinking your specialty coffee and talking about how ironically great it was. But at the end of this movie, a guy in our theater (which was nearly empty…I counted 7 people, including myself and my boyfriend), burst out laughing and said, “HOLY SH*T.” And that’s it. Swiss Army Man is a "holy sh*t" kind of movie. It makes absolutely no sense, it’s disgusting, it’s hilarious, it’s a little bit weirdly heartfelt, and more than a little bit creepy. And that’s really all you can possibly hope for from Daniel Radcliffe’s most recent foray into this cinematic genre.

All in all, if you're looking for a darkly funny movie that is beautifully shot and features more fart jokes than your uncle at a family gathering, go see Swiss Army Man.

 -Fran