To say that Charlie Kaufman's "Synecdoche, New York" is one of the best films of the year or even one closest to my heart is such a pathetic response to its soaring ambition that I might as well pack it in right now. That at least would be an appropriate response to a film about failure, about the struggle to make your mark in a world filled with people who are more gifted, beautiful, glamorous and desirable than the rest of us -- we who are crippled by narcissistic inadequacy, yes, of course, but also by real horror, by zits, flab and the cancer that we know (we know!) is eating away at us and leaving us no choice but to lie down and die.
Yet since this is a review of a new Charlie Kaufman work, perhaps I should hit rewind: "Synecdoche, New York" is the first film directed by the writer of such unlikely Hollywood entertainments as "Being John Malkovich," "Adaptation" and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," a romance of such delicate feeling that it's still a shock that it carries a studio brand. Mr. Kaufman's kinked, playful screenplays are usually accompanied by a flurry of "e" adjectives: eclectic, eccentric, edgy, eggheady. (Also: quirky.) That's true only if you consider the contemporary American screen, with its talking Chihuahuas and adult male babies with mother fixations. Come to think of it, the main character in "Synecdoche" has a thing about poop and bosomy women, though happily not at the same time.