It may seem like a simple play of words to say that Marc Turtletaub’s Puzzle is missing a few pieces, yet it’s undeniably true. Revolving around a woman who re-seizes her purpose in life through a passion for jigsaw puzzles, the film starts off strong and then dives deep into thematic chaos. It floats between the negative and the positive, creating an experience that is at once frustrating and enlightening.

At the heart of the film is actress Kelly Macdonald, shining in a performance that makes use of her exquisite acting talents. Perhaps best known for her supporting performance in 2007’s No Country for Old Men, Macdonald has deserved a leading role as textured as the one she plays in Puzzle, yet it’s unfortunate that such a great performance is buried amidst a movie as gallingly uneven as this. Macdonald plays housewife Agnes, who tends only to the men in her life—her husband, Louie (David Denman), her two sons Gabe and Ziggy (Austin Abrams, Bubba Weiler) and God.

After receiving a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle for her birthday, Agnes discovers her flair for the activity, finishing the puzzle in an impressively brief amount of time and with the precision of an expert. There’s also an illumination that sparks up in Agnes’ eyes when she’s working on a puzzle, an emotional demand that Macdonald truly delivers upon.

This movie could’ve been made up entirely of Agnes doing puzzles and it would’ve been enough. To watch her work is fascinating, but then the film decides it wants to be a romance between something other than Agnes and her jigsaw boxes. A flyer seeking a puzzle partner for competition prompts Agnes to visit Robert (Irrfan Khan), a man who’s given a slim character arc of: 1) his wife just left him, 2) he watches the news all day and constantly remarks on all the bad things happening in the world, and 3) he’s blatantly designed to fall in love with Agnes and challenge the structural soundness of her quotidian existence.

When the film begins steering towards this romantic pursuit, it immediately loses steam through its sheer implausibility. You may find yourself wondering why the filmmakers chose to go in that direction, and sadly Puzzle doesn’t give much of an answer. It skips over key plot developments such as Agnes’ competition, deciding that an entire movie building up to a puzzle competition should be more focused on the half-baked relationship that grows between Agnes and Robert. Their friendship is fascinating. Their romance is not. The reasoning why is simple: the former is believable and the latter feels like a crock.

And it’s a shame, because the time we spend with Agnes during her domestic life is the movie’s strongest asset. How Agnes rises above her boring day-to-day is invigorating to watch, especially when she begins to stand up for herself. However, there’s just far too much missing from the total package. Robert says at one point, “When you complete a puzzle, you know that you have made all of the right choices.” By making so many wrong choices, Puzzle feels incomplete.

  • Revisit: Marriage Story

    To truly let Marriage Story penetrate your heart is simple as long as you possess empathy …
  • Rediscover: Portrait of a Lady on Fire

    Portrait of a Lady on Fire profoundly understands the raw emotional power of human memory,…
  • Becky

    A ridiculous and gratuitous study of violent revenge. …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Check Also

Revisit: Marriage Story

To truly let Marriage Story penetrate your heart is simple as long as you possess empathy …