Thursday, August 13, 2009
Which could be worse? Burdened by your own heavy soul or searching for your lost soul? That's the surreal dilemma the character Paul Giamatti, played by Paul Giamatti of course, has to deal with in Sophie Barthes's feature debut "Cold Souls" (USA 2009 | 101 min.).
In the film, Paul Giamatti is a theater actor who is suffocated by the role he plays in the Russian play "Uncle Vanya." Desperately seeking for a relief, he takes on the advice of his agent and meets Dr. Flintstein (David Strathairn), who can extract his soul and put it in a storage, for a fee. Even though his troubled soul is as tiny as a chickpea, the almost soul-less (only 5% is left) Paul regrets after the extraction, and he wants to put that chickpea soul back to his body. However, he finds out that his soul is lost to a Russian black market soul-trafficking ring. His odyssey to recover his chickpea soul turns into an espionage mission in icy cold Russia.
The plot has a refreshing and intriguing start. For example, Paul's initial visit to Dr. Flintstein's office is hilarious and well crafted. It is also the highest point of the film. The idea of living with or without one's soul is interesting and original. If this story line were developed intelligently, this film would have been more charming and funny. However, the story gets diverted into a wacky soul recovery drama. The story gets lazy and becomes conventional and formulistic. What a pity.
If Paul's chickpea-size soul must be lost or get swapped with somebody else's soul, it would have been funnier if the chickpea were mixed with a box of wasabi peas and eaten by a Chinese in China. Since there are about 1.3 billion people in China, good luck to Paul for finding his soul.