17th Aug2014

The Congress – Film

by timbaros
images-225Expecting to see a political film, I was not prepared for what transpired on screen in the new film The Congress. It’s a mishmash of live action and animation that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
The Congress is actually supposed to be an attempt to be a take-off on Hollywood (as in Robert Altman’s Shortcuts). Robin Wright plays herself (her character is named Robin Wright); a 43-year old actress whose career is on the wane because she’s getting older and there are not a whole lot of roles for her. She has two children, Sarah (Sami Gayle) who is sassy and a rebel, and her younger son Aaron (Kodi Smit-McPhee), who is slowly going blind. They live (strangely) near an airport where her son likes to watch the planes and fly kites.
When Wright’s agent Al (played by Harvey Keitel) tells Wright that she had it all when she was 24, studios came crawling to use her, but now she’s pretty much box office poison and that she should sell the rights to her younger to Miramount Studios (Miramax and Paramount combined – get it?). He tells her that she will become rich if she does so (and so will he) and that this will “make her young forever.” It takes a while to convince her but eventually she comes around. She has her whole body and facial expressions scanned by the studio, with Al helping her to express these.
Twenty years later, Wright is driving in the desert to attend a futuristic conference (as it is named). While’s she driving her character becomes animated and it is at this point that The Congress becomes confusing. From what I can gather, it’s a conference of actors (former actors) who have transformed themselves into all sorts of characters, including Tom Cruise, who has also sold his image to remain young forever on screen. But then all sort of things take place with Wright – she flies into the air, she takes over the mic at the conference and tells them her views on becoming an image (including her regret to go CGI), then a revolt takes place, and at this point it’s not too clear how this part of the movie relates to the beginning. It really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
Don’t get me wrong. The animation section of The Congress is stunning and could’ve been used as a separate movie, but to tie together and to make sense of the live action and animation in this film is the struggle. It just doesn’t make any sense. Sure, the story of an ageing actress wanting to remain young (on screen) while at the same time selling her image as she wants to be financially secure for her and her family is a great storyline, but what unravels onscreen is not this story. The Congress is too confusing yet visually stunning, so you decide if you want to give it a go. I left the screening scratching my head.