2009 Running time: 101 Certificate: 12 Rating: 2

Synopsis

Paul Giamatti plays a neurotic version of himself in this offbeat existential comedy. Unable to nail a role and feeling ill-at-ease with himself, Giamatti has his soul put into storage at a revolutionary clinic. Unfortunately, his essence is stolen by Russian soul-traffickers, prompting a frantic and very literal bout of soul-searching. David Strathairn and Emily Watson co-star in a cautionary tale that's both peculiar and oddly familiar.

Director

  • Sophie Barthes

Cast

  • Paul Giamatti

  • Dina Korzun

  • David Strathairn

  • Emily Watson

  • Katheryn Winnick

Review

You've heard of Being John Malkovich? Well this is effectively Copying Charlie Kaufman, a low-fi fantasy which steals most of its ideas from the maverick screenwriter and tries to pass itself off as an original by changing a few minor details.

So where Kaufman's cult classic had John Malkovich wondering what's going on inside his head, here writer-director Sophie Barthes puts Paul Giamatti in exactly the same position.

And just as Kaufman's Adaptation dealt with the issue of writer's block, we now find Giamatti struggling with the actor's equivalent as he prepares for a production of Chekov's Uncle Vanya on the New York stage.

Seeking temporary relief from his spiritual woes, the troubled thesp visits a clinic where human souls are extracted and stored in a process performed by the pioneering Dr Flintstein (David Strathairn) and his lovely assistant (Lauren Ambrose of Six Feet Under).

Anyone who saw Kaufman's Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind may recall that Jim Carrey has his painful memories removed by pioneering doctor Tom Wilkinson and his lovely assistant Kirsten Dunst.

Barthes claims she got the idea from a book by super-psychiatrist Carl Jung. Funny that, because Adaptation revolves around a book called The Orchid Thief and here Giamatti's chickpea-like soul is stolen by an id thief.

She is Nina (Dina Korzun), the 'mule' at the heart (or should that be head?) of a Russian soul-trafficking operation. Her boss's pouting wife - a bad soap opera actress - wants the soul of Al Pacino. Unfortunately, the only actor on Flintstein's books is Giamatti.

Pitched as a comedy, Cold Souls offers a smattering of humour for the high brow, but it's a strangely morose affair. The scenes between Giamatti and his fictional wife (Emily Watson) don't exactly carry that Woody Allen zing, and things get progressively gloomier when the soul he rents turns out to be more troubled than his own.

Competently made but remarkably smug for a film unique only in its paucity of original ideas.