Movie Review : Swiss Army Man (2016)
If movies have taught us boys one thing, it's that who you are inside is important to strangers. That being ugly, malodorous and unable to coherently express yourself doesn't matter if you're romantic enough. Of course, this is bullshit and it's how many young men end up facing restraining orders, but it's a myth that still educates an obscene amount of people. Swiss Army Man isn't like that. It's a brutal and borderline nihilistic movie that masquerades as a fart-and-dick jokes comedy. I loved it, but it's not for starry-eyed romantics. It might make them jump off a bridge or something.
Oh, and... spoilers.
Swiss Army Man is the story of Hank (Paul Dano),a desperate young man trying to hang himself after being trapped on an island for too long. He's interrupted by a corpse washing ashore (Daniel Radcliffe), who's unceremonious farts disturb the solemnity of the moment. Long story short, the corpse saves his life and in exchange, Hank takes on himself the responsibility of giving him a proper burial. But that thing's not done helping him and it's slowly coming back to life. Problem is: he's an empty receptacle with no memories whatsoever. So, Hank decides to use his own sad sack story to imbue his new friend with a little humanity.
Sounds a low key complicated, doesn't it? That's because it is. While they are great moment of magic realism and comedy in Swiss Army Man, it's important to remember that the entire relationship-to-a-corpse thing is an allegory. The movie itself brutally reminds you at the end, when Hank and his friend finally reach civilization. The corpse becomes fully dead again under the gaze of boring, unimaginative adults. Because Hank and Manny (the corpse is named Manny. Don't ask) end up in the backyard of the girl who Hank is obsessed with. The one who's memory Hank uses to make Manny feel alive and human. That's where Swiss Army Man becomes quite interesting.
The girl (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) rejects Hank. Because he's a weirdo and she's unsure of what he wants, and she has a husband and a kid to take care of. The beautiful stories Hank told Manny about her throughout the movie hit a brick wall. He was just a loner weirdo, talking to a corpse because he can express himself to other, living human beings. So, this entire relationship with a corpse was basically Hank coming to terms with expressing his own feelings and healing himself. I loved how Swiss Army Man confronted this cliché of the romantic dork getting the girl and wasn't afraid to turn it on its head.
Whoever you are inside ultimately matters if you want to find true love. I don't disagree with that, but you have to come to terms with who you are and develop the capacity of being at least moderately seducing to another human being if you ever want to find "the one". Swiss Army Man brutally confronted one of the oldest and most toxic movie cliché and subverted it with bad intentions. It draws a cold, hard line between a person's beautiful imaginary and the world we're all living in. Maybe it isn't an instant classic, but it has important things to say nonetheless. I really liked it.