The Congress | Film | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

The Congress

An ambitious sci-fi drama that mixes live action and animation to make a number of critiques and explorations

click to enlarge Robin Wright as "Robin Wright" in The Congress
Robin Wright as "Robin Wright"

Ari Folman's The Congress mixes live action with animation, a critique of Hollywood with a trippy sci-fi plot, and the real-life career of actress Robin Wright with rampant speculation about her future. It's an ambitious project that mostly succeeds — it's too long, and does fall into a few rabbit holes — and is surely the loopiest head trip at theaters this summer.

Wright portrays a version of herself: an actress in her mid-40s who can't get roles. The crass studio exec (Danny Huston) pines for the "Buttercup" of The Princess Bride. But he offers her a last-chance deal: Wright could digitize herself, and the studio would continue to make movies with that data. Reluctantly, Wright agrees.

Jump ahead a couple of decades and Wright is en route to "The Congress," located in a drug-induced dreamworld where everybody is transformed into the avatar of their choice. She is an honored guest, since her digital self has become a popular on-screen action star and avatar pick. But confronting the "reality" of this unreal world sends Wright (now animated) on a soul-searching journey — and several psychedelic trips. She must try to parse waking and dream states, life and "life," while discovering whether there is space for love in a dreamscape where everybody is pretending to be somebody else. Intriguing stuff for those willing to take the trip.

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