Ari Folman's Waltz With Bashir (2008) was an underrated film, using animation to document both the physical and emotional battles from a massacre of 3000 Palestinian refugees in 1982. Although smart and beautiful, it was not a particularly easy film to watch. And, in spite of the high-powered stars (Robin Wright and Harvey Keitel), it is likely The Congress unfortunately also will largely fly under the radar of popular culture, even though it is presenting some of the most valid thorny questions about current media and culture.
A clever set up tangles and promises to untangle several big themes, perhaps the easiest to grasp is that disappearing line between real and virtual worlds, as the movie is a hybrid between live action and animation. But as gripping are the questions about growing old and up. Robin Wright plays an allegory of herself: She is an aging movie actress (in real life and in the film) who never quite capitalized on her defining role, "The Princess Bride," instead, like many twentysomethings artists do, following her heart instead a career path. Now, fortysomething, Wright faces new priorities and responsibilities. Unlike her role as Buttercup, the bloom is off the rose and the melancholy here is palatable—which is to say, Wright is a captivating actress. Adding gravity—and certainly not levity—is Keitel, who plays her agent trying to secure one final contract.
This film will not appeal to everyone. It is not necessarily a feel-good cutesy animation. There are hints of the wonderful and metaphysical novel (and subsequently under-nourishing Tom Hanks film), Cloud Atlas, which flirted with themes of immortality and gloomily championed free will.
Folman is an imaginative director, whose sensibilities dip just enough into mainstream tastes and concerns to be appealing, yet remains distinctly odd enough to not be trite.
Tin Pan Theater