Fletcher (Steven Soderbergh) is under pressure at work where he has to write a speech for the leader of a self-improvement movement called Eventualism. But he's having problems at home where his wife doesn't love him anymore, and unbeknownst to him is having an affair with his exact double, who is a dentist. Meanwhile, Elmo the pest exterminator is finding the perks of his job include bedding his female clients...
Before Soderbergh went on to direct blockbusters and remakes, he got Schizopolis out of his system. As writer, director and star, he sets his sights on the troubles of modern living, and sees that while his characters have the comforts of the modern lifestyle in place, a paranoia and dissatisfaction sets in which efffectively jeopardises all hope of contentment - the main characters can't tell each other what they mean, don't really listen, and Elmo doesn't even speak in recognisable English, simply random words.
The film is split into three sections: the first is about Fletcher and his hangups, the second about Fletcher's dentist double ("Oh my God - I'm having an affair with my own wife!") and his romantic problems, the third shows the first two stories from Fletcher's wife's point of view, with Fletcher dubbed into Japanese until they can work out their issues. These self-centred people can't find any gratification: self-doubt and the unsatisfactory nature of everyone around them scuppers their happiness.
At Fletcher's work the staff are obsessed that a mole is working there and Fletcher is bullied by his boss - the atmosphere is less than comfortable. In contrast, the dentist is his own boss and seems happy until his love life leads him to personal disaster. There are loads of odd jokes, asides and scenes to catch you off guard, such as the waste paper basket that plays easy listening music when paper is thrown into it, or Fletcher's co-worker Nameless Numberhead Man's disappointment that his wife is now thin when he wants her to be as fat as when he married her. After his extermination plotline, Elmo gets a better offer and starts acting like an egomaniac star who features in cop show-style action sketches.
The point of this is obscure; the film satirises self help gurus, office life, relationships and even features spoof news reports ("At least we didn't sell it to the fucking Japanese"). Soderbergh could be saying, as one of the experts does, that you should try to be happy in yourself, and accept yourself for what you are - but the ending indicates even that might not be enough. For an experimental film, Schizopolis is surprisingly enjoyable, with many hilarious moments (simply watching Soderbergh pulling faces can raise a laugh), but if you emerge confused, maybe you should take the advice at the start of the film and see it again until it makes sense. Or is that a cynical marketing ploy?
Versatile American writer, director and producer whose Sex Lies and Videotape made a big splash at Cannes (and its title has become a cliche). There followed an interesting variety of small films: Kafka, King of the Hill, noir remake The Underneath, Schizopolis (which co-starred his ex-wife) and Gray's Anatomy.
Then came Out of Sight, a smart thriller which was successful enough to propel Soderbergh into the big league with The Limey, Erin Brockovich, Oscar-winning Traffic and classy remake Ocean's 11. When Full Frontal and his Solaris remake flopped, he made a sequel to Ocean's 11 called Ocean's 12, material he returned to with Ocean's 13. Che Guevara biopics, virus thriller Contagion and beat 'em up Haywire were next, with the director claiming he would retire after medication thriller Side Effects and Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra. He returned after a period of even greater activity with heist flick Logan Lucky and his first horror, Unsane.