Movie Review Rewind: Cold Souls (2009)

Brandon Vick flips the calendar back to 2009 for a look at Paul Giamatti in Cold Souls on this edition of Movie Review Rewind.

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Cold Souls is an interesting film that does not really go anywhere. It starts and ends at the same pace: a slow one. It is imaginative and creative, but there seems to be no substance in the film. The story focuses on the soul and has a great cast, but is not enough to keep this from seriously dragging.

Paul Giamatti plays Paul Giamatti and he’s an actor. He is having a tough time with his latest performance in Uncle Vanya. He reads an article in The New Yorker about a company that extracts souls and stores them. Giamatti thinks this is his way to happiness and succeed in his performance as an actor, but think again. He becomes a victim of “soul-trafficking” and his soul ends up inside a Russian soap-opera actress. Realizing he has made a mistake, he goes to Russia to get his soul back where it rightfully belongs.

This film deals with humor and fantasy and is on the dramatic side as well. I should not even use the word humor because this film is not funny. Well maybe a little…but I would not call it a comedy by any means. It falls in to several different genres, but the film just doesn’t go anywhere. It feels like it is hitting a wall and the film can’t break through. At first, Cold Souls is interesting, but the longer the film goes, the more it loses that and it starts to become boring and slow.

While the story is a little weak, the performances are certainly not. The supporting cast, featuring David Strathairn, Emily Watson, and Dina Korzun, is fantastic and Giamatti is surrounded by talented people. . But Giamatti is the headliner in this film. Even when a film cannot stand its own ground, Giamatti’s performance can. He is a gifted actor and has become one of my favorites to watch. His performances in American Splendor, Cinderella Man, Sideways, and Lady in the Water are great. Again, even if you did not like the movie, you had to like him.

He portrays a man who is suffering and turns to one last option. He is desperate. Just like his character with the same name, Giamatti loves his craft and wants to perfect it. But he’d rather do that without a soul in this film. His acting is the strong point in Cold Souls. I think it’s a shame he has only been nominated for one Oscar.

Despite strong performances, this film starts fresh but becomes rather stale. In her feature debut, writer/director Sophie Barthes has a lot to work with. However, there’s hardly anything that actually comes together in the end. Cold Souls has a great concept and story, but there is nothing gripping about it on-screen. When this film is over, you do not really care what happened. The only lesson learned is the one you already knew: keep your soul to yourself.

Brandon Vick is a member of The Music City Film Critics’ Association and the Southeastern Film Critics Association, the resident film critic of the SoBros Network, and the star of The Vick’s Flicks Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @SirBrandonV and be sure to search #VicksFlicks for all of his latest movie reviews.

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