By Sonny Mujumdar,
Movie: Puzzle | Release Date: July 27th in NY & LA
Producer: Wren Arthur, Peter Saraf | Director: Marc Turtletaub | Cast: Kelly Macdonald, Irrfan Khan, David Denman, Austin Abrams, Bubba Weiler | Script: Oren Moverman (Original Script by Natalia Smirnoff) | Running time: 103 minutes
First impression is this movie is for the super-nerdy dissectologists (yes, that’s what people who love to assemble jigsaw puzzles are called!), but that’s far from the truth. It is a movie about a forty-year old woman’s mid-life awakening to a world where she can do something on her own and excel at it. Consequently, through her realization of excellence in dissectology, she starts unraveling the puzzle pieces of her own life…realizing her self-worth and ultimately a calm that she never felt all her life.
Puzzle revolves around forty-year old Agnes (played par excellence by Kelly Macdonald of “No Country for Old Men” fame), a Bridgeport CT suburban housewife and mother of two young boys. Agnes has absolutely no identity of her own and her life revolves around the lives of her husband (played by David Denman, “The Replacements”) and kids, who take her for granted and expect her to spend all her time cooking, cleaning and taking care of the house.
The ‘transformative’ power of Puzzle comes when Agnes discovers that she excels in solving jigsaw puzzles, the first one coming to her as a gift for her fortieth birthday, where she cooks, bakes for her own party…even lighting the candles on her own cake. Dissecting puzzles opens up a whole new universe for Agnes that begins to unravel her own existence. It takes her on new paths that lead to New York City where she meets and joins the “Champion” of Jigsaw puzzles, Robert (played by Irrfan Khan, “Life of Pi” “Jurassic World” “Lunchbox”), on a quest to win the National Jigsaw Puzzle Competition.
Kelly Macdonald plays Agnes to perfection, from playing the housewife’s lack of confidence and complete dedication to her family to the newly awakened and liberated woman that realizes her own talents. Irrfan Khan on his side, as he always does for any role he’s played before, smoothly enacts the lazy inventor that got lucky, became rich, and does nothing but solves jigsaw puzzles now. He also has some of the best lines in the movie, like, “The thrill of life is getting all the wrong pieces right!” and “When you complete a puzzle, you know you’ve made all the right choices.” Somewhere along the line, there’s a romantic interlude that seemed unnecessary and a little too abrupt for the story, but it appears to strengthen her resolve towards self reliance. So we’ll live with that small inconsistency in the otherwise perfect story. For a refreshing change, the husband is not abusive in any way. He is loving and caring, but doesn’t really go deeper to get to know more about Agnes’ needs.
A lot of credit goes to Director Marc Turtletaub (“Little Miss Sunshine”) for weaving a story that touches our heart and moves us towards a realization that each one of us is good at something in life…and each of our lives is worth living. The script written by Oren Moverman was reinvented from the original script by Natalia Smirnoff for the Argentinean film, Rompecabezas (puzzle), released in 2011.
Puzzle is not without any accolades…it has won the “Truly Moving Picture” award from Heartland Film, a non-profit arts organization, in 2018. The award is given to movies that don’t just entertain, but also possess a strong transformative power through film.
Definitely a good watch but slow moving and more in the serious artsy kind of movie genres.