Review: “Cold Souls”

So this weekend we watched Cold Souls, a film about a company that specializes in removing and storing souls for people who find them burdensome. We picked this one because:

  1. It features one of my wife’s favorite actors, Paul Giamatti, playing one of my wife’s favorite actors, Paul Giamatti (see The Illusionist).
  2. It features my favorite magazine, The New Yorker.

Cold Souls is ostensibly a comedy; I was expecting it to be a black comedy but it isn’t, it’s really just mildly droll, like one of the less funny Woody Allen movies (post-Sleeper, pre-Soon-Yi/Mia Farrow Incident). Paul Giamatti is of course excellent, as is David Strathairn as the (very) faintly creepy doctor who runs the soul-storage facility. (Emily Watson, as Giamatti’s wife, didn’t make much of an impression on me — unusual for her.) There are some amusing set-pieces, in particular when the soulless Giamatti horrifies his co-stars by putting a new spin on “Uncle Vanya”, but for long stretches of the movie, not much happens. It’s not boring, exactly, but it’s not Sideways either. Things perk up a bit when Giamatti accompanies a “soul mule” (Dina Korzun, convincingly weary) back to Russia in an attempt to track down his own soul, which has been stolen and sent overseas; his reaction when he finds out who has his soul and why is pretty funny. But on the whole, as my wife put it, “It’s slower-paced than I thought it would be.” It also leaves a lot of loose ends dangling, but that didn’t really bother me; in the film’s melancholy context, it seemed appropriate that some things should go unresolved.

Cold Souls put my wife to sleep in about 40 minutes. She woke up partway through, but that’s because it was time for dinner, after which she went back to sleep again. At one point I asked her if she wanted to stop the movie and pick it up the next day. Her mumbled response was, “I’m listening to it”, but I didn’t really believe her.

3 thoughts on “Review: “Cold Souls”

  1. Why don’t I hear about all these cool movies?
    … oh yah … I live in Japan.

    Is the soul really a conscience, but with a different name?
    No one ever tries to save your conscience … just your soul.
    What gives?


  2. Mrs James’ reaction to the movies you review always strikes a chord with me, and I laughed out loud that you didn’t believe that she was really listening to it! I say that to my husband too and I thought for sure that he believed me.


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