FlixChatter Review: The Congress (2013)

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An aging, out-of-work actress accepts one last job, though the consequences of her decision affect her in ways she didn’t consider.

I’ve been wanting to check this movie out of sheer curiosity. The idea of mixing animation with live-action is tricky, and I always wonder how a filmmaker would pull this off. This is from the same filmmaker who brought the Oscar-nominated Waltz with Bashir, Ari Folman, and I must say The Congress is an ambitious and absolutely bizarre film. Whether or not the film works for you depends on how much the eccentricities bothers you, plus the structure of the film is also not straightforward to make it digestible. But the way I see it, I’m glad I saw it and the thing with certain art form is, one can still appreciate it even if we don’t fully comprehend it.

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The story is loosely based on Stanislaw Lem’s sci-fi novel The Futurological Congress. In the film, Robin Wright plays a fictionalized version of herself as an aging actress and single mother of two, and her son’s hearing and eyesight are slowly deteriorating. A Hollywood mogul from Miramount (Miramax & Paramount) offered to buy the film rights of her digital image so in the future studios could make films using only CGI versions of her, provided that she’d never act again anywhere.

It’s twenty years later when her contract’s about to expire that the animated adventure came alive. At the entrance of Abrahama City, where Robin is to attend Miramount’s “Futurological Congress,” she’s given a chemical so she transform into an avatar of herself in order to enter the strict animated zone. Trippy is the word I would use here and I can’t even begin to explain what the plot is about.

TheCongressStill3In fact, when the movie’s over, I thought ‘what the heck was it that I just watched??’ Part of the film seems to be a commentary or satire on the mercenary nature of Hollywood, but other times it’s a mother-son story, and then there’s a love story between Robin and Dylan (voiced by Jon Hamm), who claims to be her animator. It’s hard to tell what it’s about, it’s really quite discombobulating as things get more colorful and more surreal. You’ll notice a bunch of famous people in the animated world, from deity, famous entertainers, sports figures, etc.

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The fact that the film somehow still retains my interest is Wright’s heartfelt performance, even in her animated format she’s always engaging and sympathetic. The supporting cast are excellent too, Harvey Keitel as Robin’s agent, Kodi Smit-McPhee as her son, and Danny Huston as the studio mogul. The most emotionally engaging moments are between Robin and Paul Giamatti who plays the kind doctor who treats her son.

The altered sense of realism is to be expected in a live-action/animation hybrid format, but messy structure of the film highlights the narrative problems. I kind of knew going in this film would not be an easy watch however, but still it can be frustrating. I think some people would have serious issues with the film, much like they would with say, Holy Motors, and I can’t say I blame them. But there are some enjoyable and funny moments, I always appreciate originality even if it’s a little on the bizarre side. I’d love to connect more with it and the characters, but overall it’s got enough going for it to warrant a recommendation from me.

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Have you seen this film? Well, what do you think?

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26 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review: The Congress (2013)

    1. Hi Cindy! The animation style is quite different from Roger Rabbit, and story is definitely darker. Worth checking out if you don’t mind something a bit off the beaten path.

  1. I’ve never heard of this movie before, not sure I’ll ever watch it. I’m just not a fan of mix live action and animation in movies. I remember watching WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT and just couldn’t understand why it’s such a massive hit back on those days.

  2. I haven’t heard of this movie before, the concept of mixing live action with animation sounds neat. Love Robin Wright, I’ve been watching her lately in House of Cards where she’s very good.

  3. Nicely written Ruth 🙂 You did a good job, I was never able to write anything worth posting for this movie. Trippy is an understatement, the thing is surrealist heaven. Though I do agree with you on the flaws you mentioned, especially regarding the narrative

    1. Hi ya Jordan! Ahah, there are some movies I really don’t know how to write a review for. This was one of them but I though, what the heck. I’m not always into surrealist stuff but I was intrigued by Robin Wright’s casting and she delivered!

  4. This sounds really interesting! I’ve been meaning to see it for a while I just haven’t gotten around to it. I never really expected it to be anything other than bizarre ha ha 🙂

    1. Hi Melissa! It’s REALLY bizarre, especially in the animation format, but if you’re not averse to weird stuff in movies, I still think it’s an intriguing and well-acted piece.

  5. I happened to see this about a week ago. Here is what I wrote about it:

    This film starts out as a thoughtful exploration of how aging actresses are treated and just who really controls the images of actors and actresses. It stars Robin Wright as “herself”. After 45 minutes, though, the movie takes…I won’t even call it a left turn. It enters another dimension entirely as it becomes an hour long Ralph Bakshi-inspired animation of a futuristic hotel being attacked by rebels. The penis and vagina fish are amusing. I found out afterwards that they took a Stanislaw Lem science fiction story that was an allegory of communism and grafted the bit about actresses and actors onto the beginning. The two are at best an awkward fit. I would have much rather they continued with the whole concept of Wright selling all rights to her image to the movie studio and continued with what that meant for her.

    1. Hi there Chip! I totally agree with you on the plot, I think it’d be far more compelling and focused if they had just stuck with the ‘selling rights’ image because I can’t even remember that plot being explored before and it’s an intriguing one. Ahah yeah, there are some truly bizarre visuals that are so out there in this movie, it’s a bit all over the place which is too bad as I think they have something worth exploring.

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