AFI Fest 2013: Ex-Princess Bride Becomes a Weird-Ass Cartoon in The Congress (Review)

By Luke Y. Thompson in Cartoons, Movies
Friday, November 15, 2013 at 10:00 am

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But you can never trust your eyes - it could simply be that everyone here is on drugs to conceal the truth, like a version of the Matrix if it were designed by Ralph Bakshi and Max Fleischer. Many of the characters resemble living and dead celebrities, and while Tom Cruise sounds like Tom Cruise (it's not him, just a good sound-alike), Ronald Reagan has a British accent. It's no stretch to see this as a comment on what we the audience are seeing - the Robin Wright onscreen, though played by Robin Wright, is still a facsimile of Robin Wright the person. And when we get into the full-on Red King syndrome as to whose dream this truly is - there are ample clues from the getgo that it could be Aaron's - well, the unmentioned but obvious option is "the audience's." There's an early contract negotiation in which Wright insists that her avatar never do sci-fi, Holocaust movies, or porn - naturally, by the end of the movie, her animated form (the avatar as we the audience perceive it, but not the avatar within the story) has touched on all of them.

I love all of this in theory, and wish I didn't have to point out that in practice, I wanted more non-meta story going on concurrent with the deeper stuff. I don't need a ton of explosions, but I would like more of a propulsive narrative to take me through all the observations about the artifice of our perceptions, and the movies as false reality. Director Ari Folman won me over with Waltz With Bashir not just through its stunning visual style, but also because he began with a cliffhanger of not remembering what he did during the war, and as we went along, the pieces gradually fell into place just as they should. I feel like some pieces are missing from The Congress - it's a jigsaw puzzle that's fun to tinker with but I just can't solve, in part because I can't quite make out what the coherent picture at the end is supposed to be.

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