The opening shot of Ari Folman’s (Waltz With Bashir) The Congress is the single best part of the movie. Harvey Keitel’s silver-tongued Hollywood agent Al talks off screen while the camera focuses solely on Robin Wright (The Princess Bride). Playing a version of herself—that is, an actress named Robin Wright—the long take is nothing but her reactions. It’s like she’s giving a demonstration of how to act. There’s nothing huge, every move is so subtle that you almost miss them, but she conveys an incredible range of emotion and feeling. She’s mesmerizing, and from this moment on all you want is to watch her to see what she does next. The problem with this live-action/animation hybrid is that it is a slow, steady downhill slide from this beginning.
Loosely based on Stanislaw Lem’s novella The Futurological Congress, Wright sells her image to Miramount Studio—this is where the future of movies are going—to do with as they like. Once they scan her expressions, body, and emotions, the execs can, and do, simply plug her computer-generated likeness into any vapid blockbuster they please. 20 years later she attends the Futurological Congress in an animated zone and the film turns into a Day-Glo version of Heavy Metal full of empty philosophical asides. There are multiple jumps in time, utopias where you can become whatever you want, and insurgents with an anti-technological bend.