When Warner Brothers announced that they’d be releasing another film set in the wizarding world of Harry Potter which incidentally wouldn’t feature any appearances by Harry Potter or Alan Rickman, many fans of J.K. Rowling’s devil-worshiping, irredeemable smut were left scratching their heads. Fortunately, loyalists to the series can now get their Harry fix elsewhere, with a lovingly crafted biopic of the actor whose alter-ego captivated an entire generation of responsible, young communists. Swiss Army Man spares no expense in honestly depicting Daniel Radcliffe’s life as a farting corpse, and is bound to satisfy 20-something girls who still dream of sending their babies off to Gryffindor. Whether it completely lives up to its vast filmic potential is another question, one I’m inclined to answer in the negative for reasons I’ll kind of explain, maybe.
Swiss Army Man – The Good Parts Version
Tragically, the ingenious stunt casting of Radcliffe as a literal tool who does whatever Labour his master requires of him crumbles beneath the filmmakers’ instinct to pander to a cruder segment of the population, one that probably has no interest whatsoever in watching a psychedelic, largely figurative story about a pervy, depressed stalker surviving in the wilderness by exploiting an imaginary friend imbued with miraculous anatomical “powers”. I had a similar reaction to the ending song performed by Sia in Nicolas Winding Refn’s latest film The Neon Demon, an afternoon showing of which drew not a single viewer besides the Author. The target audience of a movie like The Neon Demon – which I would cautiously recommend, by the way – doesn’t give a flying flip about the neutered, radio-friendly electropop of Sia or Diplo, and closing out such a cerebral, twisted, and borderline satanic picture with a girly dance track by the both of them felt like an insult to the sophistication of the grown-ass males who’d paid to see the blood- and boobs-laced arthouse picture.
Apart from its daring but misguided performances and Dick Cheney-esque emotional gravitas, Swiss Army Man doesn’t offer too much as a film. The cinematography and digital coloring is pretty standard, gritty Sundance fare, better than anything recent from Hollywood but nothing special like the 2015 Best Picture winner Spotlight, which took place mostly in unornamented office spaces and presented a stunningly cogent meditation on the significance of the color of semen. The Daniels’ only directing background previous to this was in music videos, so it’s only natural that the mostly a cappella gibberish soundtrack complements the visuals really well. Evoking a mashup of second-rate Fleet Foxes or Grimes and the Beach Boys demos on the overall better-edited Love and Mercy, also starring a singing Paul Dano, the music sounds resplendent in the theater but is the kind of thing you would never, ever listen to for pleasure. Trust me, I tried.
Swiss Army Man is probably not playing in a theater near you. Check out the trailer below.