Visually arresting and intellectually ambitious, Ari Folman’s whacked-out look at the future of moviemaking shows flashes of brilliance before going off the rails. The second English-language film from the Israeli director, after the excellent Waltz With Bashir (2008), The Congress is set in a near-future world where the actress Robin Wright (a fictionalized version of the real thing, played by Wright herself) strikes a devil’s bargain with the malevolent movie studio that launched her career.
Wright signs over the rights to, well, herself, so the studio can create a digital clone to be used in near perpetuity. The virtual (and less expensive) Wright will become the studio’s new star, while the actual Wright agrees never to act again. That this scenario is less sci-fi than one might assume—similar digitization projects are being used by Hollywood today—is one of the most fascinating aspects of The Congress. Unfortunately, as the film delves deeper and moves from live action into full animation, it becomes a bizarre, meandering fever dream.
The Congress opens in theaters today.