The latest from Paul Schrader is an interesting, bizarre, and effective character study that fails to work as a whole or find a concise voice as a film.
Adam (Jeff Goldblum) is a Holocaust survivor that is spending time in and out of a rehabilitation center in the Israeli desert, functioning high above everyone else, but finds himself back inside after constant relapses in his attempts to re-join the world. Adam is an incredible character full of life and fun on the outside, projecting his need to entertain from his days as Germany’s greatest clown, to the torment and shame he feels over the way things happened in his concentration camp. Many of his issues are directly rooted to the man in charge of the camp, and a man who’s life Adam saved using his “talents” at a show, Commandant Klein (Willem Dafoe). Klein made him his “pet” and Adam’s experiences with him are something he must not only get over, but will also allow him to help another.
The film has a lot of good, interesting, and engaging ideas, but it has trouble pulling them all together or explaining them enough to really have a great effect on us. First off, is the mystery behind Adam and his abilities that are used throughout, but are not really elaborated on as to how, why, or when he gained these abilities. And while it is intriguing at first, as to what he is doing and how he does it, one is left feeling at a loss when there is no payoff. Another issue is a couple of the relationships just didn’t quite work in the movie. Adam and a nurse’s bond is a befuddling and we don’t really get why they have the connection they do. Add to all of this the way Adam handles himself over the things that happened to him, it makes sense on one level, deflection, but not on the other, wouldn’t go as far as he does. It is hard to explain without spoiling, but things just do not feel as fleshed out as they could be and the viewer is left a bit too puzzled and without enough pieces to figure it all out.
Adam himself though, with all these untied loose ends, remains an interesting character study and sucks you in with his bizarre passions and emotions and the way he carries himself in general. Jeff Goldblum makes this movie interesting and worth watching as we see Adam at his best and worst, and Goldblum handles the part with ease. Showing incredible range with this daring and bizarre turn, Goldblum gets inside Adam and gives him a veil of mystery to the role that keeps you guessing and thinking about why he is the way he is. Dafoe does an alright job as a Nazi, though he definitely doesn’t fall in top film Nazi’s by any means. The rest of the cast is littered with European stars which I must ask forgiveness for since I can’t really pair names to faces with so little info on the film, due to it being an early screening, but the head Doctor is quite good and accolades must be thrown at the young boy in the film who which you will understand once you see the picture.
In the end, Adam Resurrected doesn’t successfully work as a cohesive story or film, but is a collection of interesting and engaging ideas that stand out on their own. Goldblum is fantastic and brings so much mystery and charisma to the character that you can’t help but be taken along the ride with him. One just wishes the filmmakers were able to put something more solid together and created a better overall film, because as this stands it is a more engaging character study than a story as a whole.