The Congress is an ambitious and beautiful treat by Ari Folman, with a strikingly complex lead performance by RobIn Wright. His film is driven by a confounding premise: what if an actor could give one final performance for a machine that scans every bit of their self, and have that information used for any performance in the future? Robin Wright, playing a version of herself, is told that she is at the end of her career and needs to do this one last task for the studio, since she hasn’t done very good work in the past. The studio, titled Miramount (a mix of Miramax and Paramount, although that’s the only direct connection we see to Hollywood), captures her performance and begins to use her as a vehicle for other films; she’s a younger, more elegant version of herself.
And by 2030, she’s an older woman who stays in a hotel as the world around her becomes animated. That’s when the film gets strange. It’s an impressive feat of live-action and animation mixed together, becoming remarkable when we see the transitions between the two worlds. The Congress gets a bit lost near its conclusion in terms of where it ultimately wants to head, but the commentary on artistry and the acceptance of reality as a means of living are powerful themes for a film of this nature. It essentially demands multiple viewings to realize all the film has to offer.
Grade: ★★★★ (out of 5)
Note: this is one of a few films I saw at the Scottsdale International Film Festival, so reviews are shorter than ones for commercial releases.