Swiss Army Man
On the first full day of the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, the weirdest, most bizarre thing premiered and it’s called Swiss Army Man.
So, here’s a little taste: There’s a scene early in the movie in which Hank (Paul Dano) is riding a corpse (played by Daniel Radcliffe) in the ocean as a jet ski, using Radcliffe’s lifeless body’s farts as fuel. (There are a lot of farts in this movie). It’s a sort of glorious scene in which Dano looks like he’s conquered the universe, only he’s riding a dead body and farts are propelling them. Here’s the thing, the movie only gets weirder from there.
To say this will be Sundance’s most polarizing movie is probably an understatement. There were a few walkouts, but there was also a lot of laughter. I laughed a lot, but frankly most of the time I’m not sure why. Maybe out of nervous energy? Sometimes, when I don’t know how to react, I laugh. Anyway, I laughed a lot during Swiss Army Man.
Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan’s really weird movie starts with Hank stranded on a deserted island. He’s in the process of killing himself when he sees a body wash to shore. Given some hope that at least he won’t be alone, he’s devastated to find out that whoever this man is, he’s passed away long ago. After an attempt at CPR, Radcliffe’s body starts farting. Then Hank uses the farting body to ride himself off the island.
This all sounds fake. This all sounds like I’m making it up.
Most of the rest of the film is Hank forming a relationship with this dead body. The body begins to communicate with Hank – but is it all in Hank’s mind or is it real? We don’t really know and I don’t think it matters. I don’t think Swiss Army Man is a movie that’s made to “make sense.”
Honestly, I have no idea what to make of this movie other than to report that it exists. No, really, this exists. I’m kind of in awe of the fact this movie exists. Did I mention Paul Dano rides Daniel Radcliffe’s lifeless corpse as a jet ski? Using farts as fuel? Did I dream this? I’m writing this at 1:15 a.m. and I’m in very high altitude, maybe I’m imagining all of this. I swear I remember this happening. Also, Radcliffe’s body could shoot weapons out of his mouth. I think I’m going to stop writing about this movie now.
Morris From America
Morris From America, what a delight. Well … unless you happen to be German. Most of the German people in this movie kind of come off looking like dicks. But, whatever.
Seriously, what a unique story: Morris (Markees Christmas) is a 13-year-old African American boy living in Germany. His father, Curtis (Craig Robinson, who is wonderful), is a widower, ex soccer player who now coaches a local team in Heidelberg.
Morris doesn’t fit in at school. Actually, he hates living in Germany. (A flute-playing bully refers to him as Kobe Bryant.) But, he falls in love with a girl, Katrin, and Morris starts doing a lot of odd things in an effort to impress her. The thing is, that’s all window dressing. Even though most of this movie focuses on Morris’ infatuation with Katrin, this story is about the relationship between Morris and his father – a father who loves Morris very much.
My favorite scene is after Curtis discovers that Morris had written some misogynistic rap lyrics for an upcoming talent show. Curtis explains to Morris that he’s not necessarily mad at Morris for writing vulgar lyrics but that he’s mad because the lyrics are “bullshit.” One verse is about about having sexual relations with two women at one time and Curtis asks Morris point blank, in a way maybe only Craig Robinson could pull off, just what that experience was like for Morris. (Again, Morris is 13, so he has no idea.)
My biggest complaint about Morris From America might just be that there’s not enough scenes between Craig Robinson and Markees Christmas. Their story and their relationship – as, most likely, the only two African Americans in this city – is what drives the story. They are wonderful.
I was so close to loving Morris From America, but I had to settle for just liking it a whole bunch.
Mike Ryan lives in New York City and has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and New York magazine. He is senior entertainment writer at Uproxx. You can contact him directly on Twitter.