A24, the distribution company behind some of the greatest (and weirdest) films of the year, is continuing to earn its reputation with their latest release — Swiss Army Man. Starring solely Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe, and some short parts with Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Swiss Army Man may have a utterly nonsensical premise, but it is one of the most charming and cheerful films of the year.
Hank (Dano) is a man who is stuck on a deserted island and finds a corpse named Manny (Radcliffe) washed up on the shore right before he is about to kill himself. This flatulent corpse will be a more responsive Wilson for Dano, complete with plenty of farts and erections (your stereotypical 14-year-old male humor). I don’t want to spoil anything, but if you think that this is already too weird for you— it gets weirder as more of Manny’s skills come to light.
The friendship and mentor relationship between the two characters is the heart of the film, as Hank teaches Manny about sex and love. Since Manny is essentially the definition of Plato’s “blank slate,” he mostly serves as a mirror for Hank and his humanity. This is truly a male buddy movie, which does not necessarily alienate the female audience, but will most likely connect more with the male moviegoers.
Directors Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (affectionately known as the Daniels), at times, do struggle to rise above the fart humor, but their sensitive direction and great knowledge of physical comedy are able to save Swiss Army Man from turning into an Adam Sandler movie. Part of the reason the script is able to succeed as well in due to the great performances from Dano and Radcliffe, who are able to play each unorthodox scene with seriousness and self-awareness to make it work. They embrace the weirdness that truly makes them a couple of the most diverse actors working today.
Although the ending threatens to ruin the great pacing and emotion of the first hour, the Daniels have succeeded in creating a movie about a flatulent corpse that is surprisingly emotional, meaningful and wonderfully quirky. Whether it is an experiment meant to disgust viewers or an avant-garde piece of art, the Daniels have definitely made a big impression with their first feature film.
Verdict: 4 out of 5
Some moviegoers might come out of the theater that Swiss Army Man was too weird and immature for them, but more open-minded viewers may see its inherent originality and innovation. Even if you don’t believe that the idea is executed well, you have to at least admire its vision and passion.