With Waltz With Bashir, Ari Folman used animation to accomplish something very specific: to bring the hazy dreams and collective memory of his interviewees to life. Live action could have fallen somewhere between pretentious art house and an episode of Cold Case Files, but it wouldn’t have struck the same chord.
In The Congress, Robin Wright (playing herself) is a washed up actress who is offered her final role: to be scanned by a studio (“Miramount”) and sign away the rights of her digital likeness forever. “Robin Wright” will accept the roles Robin Wright couldn’t, with no ego or self-doubt to interfere with the process. Unfortunately, this film didn’t capture the same magic as its predecessor. If anything it inverted the magic: here Folman took a great Sci-fi concept (the first 30 minutes are captivating, if a little awkwardly acted) and shoved animation where it really didn’t fit. The film leapfrogs over its premise towards its “logical conclusion” immediately and becomes too fluid to follow, sacrificing narrative integrity for a series of beautiful images and dramatic feelings. It devolves into some combination of Waking Life and What Dreams May Come, with a more muddied philosophy and a less-engaging Robin. The high concept and visual style make it worth a watch (if you’re into that sort of thing), but it’s a big disappointment.