“Synecdoche, New York” – Theater director Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is mounting a new play. His life catering to suburban blue-hairs at the local regional theater in Schenectady, New York is looking bleak. His wife Adele (Catherine Keener) has left him to pursue her painting in Berlin, taking their young daughter Olive (Sadie Goldstein) with her. His therapist Madaline Gravis (Hope Davis) is better at plugging her best seller than she is at counseling him. A new relationship with the alluringly candid Hazel (Samantha Morton) has prematurely run aground. And a mysterious condition is systematically shutting down each of Caleb’s automatic functions, one by one.
Worried about the transience of his life, Caleb leaves his home behind. He gathers an ensemble cast into a warehouse in NYC, hoping to create a work of brutal honest. He directs them in a celebration of the mundane, instructing each to live out their constructed lives in a growing mockup of the city outside.
However, as the city inside the warehouse grows, Caden’s own life veers wildly off the tracks. Somewhere in Berlin his daughter is growing up under the questionable guidance of Adele’s friend, Maria (Jennifer Jason Leigh). His lingering attachments to both Adele and Hazel are causing him to helplessly drive his new marriage to actress Claire (Michelle Williams) into the ground. Sammy (Tom Noonan) and Tammy (Emily Watson), the actors hired to play Caden and Hazel, are making it difficult for the real Caden to revive his relationship with the real Hazel. The textured tangle of real and theatrical relationships blurs the line between the world of the play and that of Caden’s own deteriorating reality.
The years rapidly fold into each other and Caden buries himself deeper into his mastepiece. As he pushes the limits of his relationships, both personally and professionally, a change in creative direction arrives in one Millicent Weems (Diane Wiest), a celebrated theater actress who may offer Caden the break he needs.
And Diane Wiest just may win her third Best Supporting Actress Oscar. “Don’t speak!”
The title of the movie “Synecdoche, New York,” from the kooky mind of the creator of classic movies “Being John Malkovich” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “Adaptation” Charlie Kaufman, is a riff on the real NY city Schenectady.