- Director:Sophie Barthes
- Cast:Paul Giamatti, Dina Kurzon, David Strathairn, Emily Watson
- Release Date:November 26, 2009
- Running time:101 minutes
- Film Worth:$10.00
- FILMINK rates movies out of $20 - the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth
An ambitious, familiarly out-there premise, fails to fulfil its potential, though there are funny moments.
Paul Giamatti plays himself in this unusual saga of existential crisis. Emotionally drained by the intense rehearsals for the angst-ridden role of Uncle Vanya in Chekhov's play, the actor feels stuck; he can't separate himself from the character. But help is at hand: Paul is intrigued by an article in The New Yorker about a new medical procedure called "soul storage." With the assistance of a certain Dr. Flintstein (David Strathairn), he gets his soul extracted, thereby relieving himself of a mental burden and feeling lighter and more confident.
The offending "organ", incidentally, resembles a chickpea. You may not be surprised to learn that Paul's newfound happiness proves illusory. He pines for his missing soul, "with all its darkness and imperfections", and decides to rent the soul of a Russian poet as a stopgap measure. He also encounters Nina (Dina Korzun), a Russian "soul mule" who smuggles souls into America.
This sort of cerebral absurdism is highly reminiscent of early Woody Allen - back when he was ambitious and philosophical - with a dollop of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind) thrown in for good measure. But unfortunately it's not in the same league as either of them.
Cold Souls is an uneasy mix of comedy and ideas, which flatters both itself and its audience that it's smarter and wryer than it really is. The action shifts between New York and St. Petersburg, becoming somewhat laboured and tedious in the process.
There are a few funny lines and the premise has potential, but the end result doesn't entirely work, particularly if you don't believe in the existence of the soul in any form - physical or otherwise. Still, writer-director Sophie Barthes deserves credit for going against the grain of a dumbed-down zeitgeist and striving for something of substance.