Review: 'Cold Souls'

( PG-13 ) ( Monitor Movie Guide )

An existential comedy with Paul Giamatti in a brilliantly deadpan lead role.

If you had to cast an actor to play a dyspeptic, disconsolate actor stewing over the title role in Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya," you couldn't do much better than Paul Giamatti. Especially since his role in the new movie "Cold Souls" calls for an actor named Paul Giamatti.

"Cold Souls," written and directed by Sophie Barthes – any relation to Roland? – is strange indeed, as one might expect from a movie about a soul-storage company in New York that will, for a reasonable fee, extract your soul and refrigerate it until you want it back. The comic horror of this concept is that the soul is literally removed – Giamatti's looks like, as he bemoans, a chickpea. Even more ghastly funny: Giamatti is pretty much the same bedraggled shmo postextraction. He's terrific throughout, although the movie, which is more clever than funny, sometimes resembles second-tier Charlie Kaufman stuff. (He wrote "Being John Malkovich" and "Adaptation" and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.") Grade: B (Rated PG-13 for nudity and brief strong language.)

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