Paul Giamatti (played by Paul Giamatti!) is an actor in rehearsals of a Broadway play by Chekov. He is getting anxious because he can’t “get into” his character of Uncle Vanya. He feels he would be better off if he could somehow detach himself from “himself” so he can adopt the deep emotions of the role. He reads that he can have his soul extracted and put in short term storage, so he decides that this is a good idea – he would then be able to focus more fully on the role, He meets Dr Flintstein (by David Strathairn) and goes through the checks, procedure and storage then returns to rehearsals. At first, he feels “light” and “free”, but after a while he doesn’t enjoy being “soul-less” and his wife Claire (by Emily Watson) has noticed some changes in him. Also, he is still not quite into the role, so he tries to retrieve his soul – but the storage company have misplaced it. They offer him another soul as short term alternative until they find his. He accepts the soul of a female Russian poet, at first it’s good but it doesn’t work out for him either. As it turns out, the storage company is running an underground international soul exchange business and Paul’s soul has been stolen for use by someone overseas – transported there inside soul “mule”, Nina (by Dina Korzun). If that’s not bizarre enough, Nina’s boss in Russia has his own ideas about how to use Paul’s soul, and a drama ensues in the attempts to return Paul’s soul to its rightful human.
This movie is weirdly brilliant. The entire story is played out deadpan. Paul Giamatti is excellent as the tortured and traumatised “soul-less” Paul, as well as the host of the other distinct temporary souls. Once you give yourself over to the concept, the movie plays out in an entertaining way, particularly as it offers a range of pointers in the story to the quirkiness of the commercial, consumer-driven world we live in.
As I said – it’s weird, but pretty good.