Synecdoche, New York is comically difficult to summarize (and pronounce), but here goes: Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who may or may not be a hypochondriac, is a small-time theater director lives in Schenectady, New York (a small, slowly dying city near my hometown, three hours north of New York City) with his wife, Adele (Catherine Keener), who has attained some fame as a painter of tiny canvases. Cotard directs at a local theater, where he and the receptionist, Hazel (Samantha Morton), flirt on smoking breaks. In the midst of rehearsals for Death of a Salesman, Cotard's body starts acting up on him. Strange afflictions plague him, but soldiering on toward his artistic vision, he produces the play, which everyone loves but Adele.
Then, one day, Adele decides that Cotard shouldn't come on the family's long-planned Berlin trip for her exhibition. Taking their daughter with her, she leaves—and never comes back. Cotard's world begins to blur, and time elasticizes until he is suddenly awarded a MacArthur Genius grant, and with some regained passion he moves the company, along with his new wife (Michelle Williams) and daughter to New York City. He plans to create a grand, experience-encompassing "theater of the real," which will explore everyday moments in his own life by re-enacting them. He'll create the most real theater—ever—that will face the truth head-on: the truth about his failed relationships with Adele and Hazel, his estranged daughter, and his own afflictions.
Cotard locates a cavernous warehouse in downtown Manhattan and moves the production in to begin rehearsals. By now he's aging rapidly and fully collapsed into himself; his work turns into a colossal navel-gazing session, with everyone ...1