Friday, April 19, 2024

“A DIFFERENT MAN”

THE STORY – Aspiring actor Edward undergoes a radical medical procedure to drastically transform his appearance. But his new dream face quickly turns into a nightmare, as he loses out on the role he was born to play and becomes obsessed with reclaiming what was lost.

THE CAST – Sebastian Stan, Renate Reinsve & Adam Pearson

THE TEAM – Aaron Schimberg (Director/Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 112 Minutes


So many films explore the idea of transformation, whether physically or emotionally, and almost always under the pretense of the transformational character finding a better version of themselves in the process. But what if a drastic change isn’t a good idea? That’s the notion writer-director Aaron Schimberg tackles in “A Different Man.” His examination into identity, personality, and the moldability of the self features a talented ensemble and hilariously askew worldview. However, it stretches for a bit longer than necessary past the point it’s trying to make.

Sebastian Stan leads the film as Edward, a wannabe actor with a condition called neurofibromatosis, which causes the growth of multiple non-cancerous tumors, notably on his face. He leads an isolated life, with ridicule and disgust from strangers as a daily occurrence. He finally makes a connection with his neighbor Ingrid (Renate Reinsve), who at first takes a liking to him from a place of pity. Edward is given a chance at a new beginning when he’s recruited for an experimental medical procedure that aims to construct his face into an approximation of what it would look like without his condition. His life almost immediately changes after he literally rips away his old face to reveal a new one. He’s inspired to completely destroy his old life, taking up a new name, occupation, and residency. But upon a chance meeting with a man named Oswald (Adam Pearson) – who also has neurofibromatosis but leads a happy, outgoing life full of friends and lovers – Edward begins to question which parts of himself need to change at all.

Edward, Ingrid, and Oswald’s worlds all intersect in the theatre. After he disappears from her life, Ingrid writes a play about her interactions with Edward. The new Edward – unrecognized by Ingrid – auditions for the play, and, through a series of circumstances, both he and Oswald find themselves working on it. They begin their interactions in a constructed, hermetic space, and Schimberg assembles a similarly curated world for his characters to play within. While the film appears to take place in the New York City of the real world, small idiosyncrasies slowly start to pepper their way throughout Edward’s life and thus throughout the film itself. In a way, the film’s energy is not dissimilar from a Charlie Kaufman film. Schimberg allows the oddities to subtly build and build until odd occurrences and coincidences are commonplace, mirroring the way that Edward finds his world being slowly yet aggressively altered around him as his circumstances change. It’s a patient, intelligent directorial choice that comments on how our specific identities can make the world around us seem different on an individual basis. At times, Schimberg’s screenplay repeatedly makes the same points, leading to the film feeling slightly overlong. However, that repetitive notion could also be said to be reflective of the cyclical way Edward keeps making similar repeated mistakes.

Stan is in top form as Edward, at first covered in impressively rendered prosthetic makeup that hides his distinct face. It’s a quietly physical performance, with his posture, gait, and general presence changing based on the specifics of a scene and who else is in it. He never allows Edward to be too pitiable, smartly avoiding cliches that might accompany similar stories. Instead, he makes him a compelling, often frustrating central character. The latter portions of the screenplay allow him to traverse into some truly unhinged territory that’s a delight to watch. It’s his best performance yet.

Reinsve delivers another magnetic performance, which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who saw her sensational work in “The Worst Person in the World.” She’s hilariously cringey in her first interactions with Edward, where she reacts with accidental terror before overcorrecting and inserting herself very forcefully into his life. Pearson is brilliantly able to change the entire mood of the film upon his arrival, with the pace of the screenplay and the energy of the filmmaking altering to match his upbeat charm. He believably comes across as someone who lights up a room whenever he enters. It’s a performance that the entire film hinges on, and he’s marvelously adept at bringing Oswald to compelling life.

The film is a wholly unique vision with a novel-like amount of thematic resonance. With his keen ability for oddball world-building (and with further help from Umberto Smerilli’s stunning musical score), Aaron Schimberg’s “A Different Man” presents a darkly funny and sometimes upsetting reflection of our self-centered existence.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - Writer-director Aaron Schimberg constructs a world that’s a slightly askew reflection of our own, with hilariously increasing absurdities that reflect the main character’s evolving mental state. Sebastian Stan turns in career-best work, and Adam Pearson gives an impactful, charismatic performance.

THE BAD - The script gets a bit repetitive with its ideas, making the film feel overlong.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Screenplay & Best Makeup and Hairstyling

THE FINAL SCORE - 8/10

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Cody Dericks
Cody Dericks
Actor, awards & musical theatre buff. Co-host of the horror film podcast Halloweeners.

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>Writer-director Aaron Schimberg constructs a world that’s a slightly askew reflection of our own, with hilariously increasing absurdities that reflect the main character’s evolving mental state. Sebastian Stan turns in career-best work, and Adam Pearson gives an impactful, charismatic performance.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>The script gets a bit repetitive with its ideas, making the film feel overlong.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b><a href="/oscar-predictions-best-actor/">Best Actor</a>, <a href="/oscar-predictions-best-supporting-actor/">Best Supporting Actor</a>, <a href="/oscar-predictions-best-original-screenplay/">Best Original Screenplay</a> & <a href="/oscar-predictions-best-makeup-and-hairstyling/">Best Makeup and Hairstyling</a><br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>8/10<br><br>"A DIFFERENT MAN"