The blending of two worlds haven’t been this enjoyable in some time. Director Ari Forman, who won his first Academy Award for Waltz with Bashir, crafts a trippy, fascinating story anchored by an astonishing performance by Robin Wright in The Congress.
Wright, who plays an alternate reality version of herself, is a washed up actress who takes on her final acting job, digitally capturing herself for a future Hollywood. Wright has been a remarkable talent for over three decades, going virtually unnoticed in some of cinema’s most iconic works. An adoration remains for her work in Forrest Gump, with a tangible respect for She’s So Lovely, and an underrated and remarkable turn exists in Breaking and Entering. In Forman’s animated, sci-fi hybrid, she delivers one of her best and most creative performances yet. It very well could be the performance of her career. What has always drawn me to Wright’s work is her understated yet profoundly moving way she approaches all her roles. Even in this performance, where half of her work is only voice, she bleeds through the screen in an enchanting manner. She radiates the artistic bravery of an actress like Cate Blanchett in I’m Not There. This is an awards worthy performance.
Co-starring the magnificent Danny Huston, the multi-talented Harvey Keitel, the often too overlooked Paul Giamatti, and the hilariously awesome Jon Hamm, The Congress is nothing like anything you’ve seen this year. It has a way of evoking the spirit, and richly drawing the audience into its world. If you love anything about the movies, this film celebrates the warm qualities that we respect.
Forman, who co-writes the film with Stanislaw Lem, provokes a film with many different things to say. It asks questions about how we interpret our world and what we expect from the human race. Through a dramatic and tender effort, Forman allows the animation medium to reinvent itself for American audiences. Animation doesn’t always have to be colorful characters with a light-hearted agenda. You can have the medium bring things to life you may not want to see in real live-action settings. Forman and Lem develop a picture that blends the artistic qualities of The Matrix and Cool World, with the sensitivity of The Artist and Being John Malkovich.
Though daring, the film is about twenty minutes too long. Its twists and turns are all nearly interesting but they tend to make generic executions at times that don’t fit the entire aura. Still, anyone who creates a movie studio named “Miramount” and pokes fun at Hollywood the way this film does, should be applauded. Also, the stunning opening is among the best scenes I’ve seen this year. Though this blend of the film medium has been used before, there is something strikingly new that Forman brings. It’s as if we all took a psychedelic drug and were kidnapped and immersed into this world. It’s hard to believe that I even understood all its themes, because there were many, and this likely exists as an endeavor that needs to be watched on multiple viewings to gauge and comprehend all its profound messages. I’m okay with that. Once in a while, à la Cloud Atlas, its welcomed.
As animation goes, this is a gem. Something that is unique and fascinating in a medium that doesn’t take enough chances in North America. It’s a definite must-watch and something cinema lovers will love.
The Congress is currently available on VOD. In select theaters August 29 2014, and in NY September 5, 2014.