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Review: Cold Souls

David Strathairn and Paul Giamatti in Cold Souls.  (

Cold Souls
Starring Paul Giamatti, David Strathairn, Emily Watson, Dina Korzun
Rated PG-13; now playing at the Esquire Theatre

"We’ll store your soul here, although if you’d like to avoid sales tax, we can ship it to our warehouse in New Jersey."

Following in the footsteps of John Malkovich and Bruce Willis, actor Paul Giamatti (Sideways) takes the plunge into playing himself in the quirky indie film Cold Souls. When Paul finds himself struggling to nail his performance in a Chekov play, he comes across a company that claims it can alleviate emotional dead weight by harvesting and storing one's soul. Suspicious but also intrigued, Paul is eventually persuaded to take part in the soul extraction by the smooth talking Dr. Flintstein (Strathairn).

Although his state of "soullessness" initially rids him of all his worries, frustrations, and inhibitions, it also renders him practically emotionless, to the point where he can no longer function properly in both his professional and personal lives. He eventually returns to the clinic, desperate to have his soul restored (which oddly resembles a chick pea, much to his consternation). Unfortunately, in the growing black market of soul trafficking, the clinic discovers that his has been stolen and given to a talentless young actress in Russia. Aided by the very smuggler who took his soul, he travels abroad to reclaim his emotional essence, flaws and all.

While this is a very intriguing concept, the film is a tad slow moving and perhaps about ten minutes too long. Still, Giamatti is his usual richly layered, often frantic self, which keeps the story moving forward. Strathairn and Russian actress Korzun also offer commendable, offbeat performances. Cold Souls definitely has that Being John Malkovich feel to it, and although the storyline is much more simplistic, it still presents interesting questions about who people really are at their core and whether our souls can accurately gauge the depth of our character. 


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