Title: Swiss Army Man
Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Drama
Directors/Writers: Dan Kwan, Daniel Scheinert
Music: Andy Hull, Robert McDowell
Cinematography: Larkin Seiple
Mary Elizabeth Winstead
American indie directors-duo DANIELS’ feature debut, SWISS ARMY MAN is a gonzo buddy movie hinges on the peculiar bonding a stranded young man Hank Thompson (Dano) and a farting corpse whom he names Manny (Radcliffe).
If this premise sounds pretty crass to you, wait to be shocked and stunned, its title itself manifestly signifies Manny as a multi-functional tool like a Swiss army knife, an ass-bared, farts-powered water jet in the title sequence is just the beginning, he will shepherd Hank back to human society in a nexus of capers coming about in the jungle, which, in retrospect, is not that far from civilization, and further obfuscates the boundary between reality and imagination.
Any logical preconception will ascertain viewers that Hank is delusional, to say the least, a retiring soul on the brink of giving up his life when his eyes alight on Manny, awash to the lonesome shore, we are never informed how Hank arrived in the island in the first place, and bolstered by a shark-jumping ending, every possible cerebral interpretation has been arbitrarily pigeonholed in a moot position, which is a double-edged sword to elicit polarized responses.
But there is beauty in Hank and Manny’s logic-defying home-coming journey, whether the latter is a bona-fide corpse Hank befriends and carries around, or is entirely a product of his psychotic head-space when he encounters the lightning before death, all depends on one’s glass-is-half-empty-or-half-full perspective, the film’s reflexive and coruscating vibe speaks volumes of the basic rapport between two friends, Manny is recreated as a tabula rasa incessantly pops rudimentary questions while stay immobile in his zombie appearance, from excruciatingly banal convos about family, love, erection to more salutary insights on Hank’s Oedipus Complex, fears of masturbation and a new approach to discern beauty in quotidian life. While Hank takes the chance to sort out his own forlorn misery, the strained relationship with his father (Gross) after the early death of his mom, the unrequited affection to Sarah (Winstead), a girl whom he constantly meets on the bus, but doesn’t have the gut to initiate a small talk. They are all components of cliché yet limned with nimble tenderness and affective earnestness to DANIELS’ lights. In a bolder move, Hank conducts a therapeutic cross-dressing play-acting to guide Manny into a Sarah-courting procedure, up to a homoerotic clincher when they share an underwater kiss, totally necrophiliac but transcendently heart-warming.
The center-duo certainly enjoys a wild ride during a short 22-day shooting, It is rather in his wheel-house for Paul Dano portraying strung-out eccentrics harboring a tragic psyche, and Daniel Radcliffe, does put his back into exploring characters on the off-beaten path in his post-Harry Potter career-choices, they rounds off with plucking an emotional chord in this heady, quirky and surprisingly edifying tale borne out of a woeful reality.
Aided by a kaleidoscope of snazzy editing by Matthew Hannam, its lilting, a cappella-exclusive soundtrack confected by Atlanta indie band Manchester Orchestra, DANIELS’s defiantly crude, vibrantly whimsical and dichotomy-straddling fantasy definitely goes out on a limb to be a comedy out of left field, and it is a horizon-widening brainwave can generate a sizable degree of reverberations for those who are able to overlook the somewhat obscene antics and look a little bit beyond the surface.