Take a Drink: for details about Robin Wright’s real career
Take a Drink: for visions of the future of film
Take a Drink: for flying
Take a Drink: for Agent Robin
Take a Drink: for movie references
Do a Shot: for entering the animation zone
Do a Shot: for genital fish
Do a Shot: for the far future
By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
Ari Folman burst onto the scene in 2007 with Waltz With Bashir, an animated documentary bursting with formal creativity about very adult, graphic memories of conflict and trauma. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more ambitious, inventive animated film, and yet, here is The Congress.
Robin Wright stars as an abrasive actress who sells the rights to her digital image to Miramount Studios so they can make new films starring her in perpetuity while she sits back and lives the good life. She has second thoughts 20 years later when she attends The Futurological Congress and finds Miramount selling her image as an avatar in an immersive VR world where people can become anything, or anybody, they want. Things get weirder from there…
For a film with so many disparate ideas, leaps in time and logic, and visual stylings, The Congress works shockingly well. It begins in a near future where entertainment is going wholly digital. This part of the film is an incisive parody of the entertainment business and an all too plausible vision of the future.
Thanks, Andy Serkis.
Then we jump to a future not too far from our own, but on the cusp of something massive- a Second Life that will soon become First Life for the majority of humanity, an opt-in animated Matrix that, again, is all too plausible. Another jump brings us to a time where this is the norm, and is evolving in surprising ways. The first part is well shot, and evidence that Ari Folman can do anything he sets his mind to, but the animation is something else again, a gonzo, trippy as all hell mix of Tex Avery, Ralph Bakshi, Bettie Boop, and Margaret Keane that you can’t tear your eyes away from.
Forget all the visual flourishes, though- The Congress for all its style and commentary soars on the strength of its characters and relationships, the strongest example of which is Robin Wright and her son, who suffers from a rare syndrome that’s making him slowly lose control of his senses. Wright does some of her finest work here as an exaggerated, washed-up version of herself, and Kodi Smit-McPhee as her son Aaron matches her and is her, and the film’s emotional center. The supporting cast is also aces, in particular Harvey Keitel as her manager, Paul Giamatti as Aaron’s doctor, Danny Huston as the villainous head of Miramount Studios, and John Hamm in a voice-only role as an animator who’s pined over Wright for years, and who may represent a new life for her.
The script is a tad uneven, with a tendency towards spelling out its themes at times, but the big question I’m left with is how Miramount’s animated virtual reality world would ever become the dominant one. For all its inventiveness, it’s kind of fugly, and really raw and undetailed compared to today’s CGI glossiness. Let’s be honest, if anybody’s going to replace reality, it’ll be Marpixalucasney.
I could go all day with the “Brazil meets Cool World meets The Matrix” taglines, but it’s the beating heart beneath the surface of The Congress that makes it great.