Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I Heart Huckabees - 2004

"I Heart Huckabees" - 2004
Dir. by David O. Russell - 1 hr. 47 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

"I Heart Huckabees" is a very weird movie.  And that's valuable to know going in - either you have a tolerance for deliberate weirdness or you don't.  If you don't, this film is probably going to be the sort of thing you might want to pass on.  But if you don't mind talky films that take a while to coalesce into something resembling a plot, this is a lot of fun.

Albert (Jason Schwartzman) is the leader of Open Spaces, an activist group that aims to preserve undeveloped land in urban areas.  He goes about that by doing things like planting trees in the middle of mall parking lots and accompanying everything he does with a poem.  Due to a series of coincidences, Albert comes across the services of Vivian (Lily Tomlin) and Bernard (Dustin Hoffman), existential detectives, whom he enlists.  Soon, his work rival, Brad (Jude Law), hires them too.  Another client, firefighter Tommy (Mark Wahlberg), gets paired with Albert, and they soon decide to follow the teachings of Caterine Vauban (Issabelle Huppert), who believes in cruelty and meaninglessness.  There's a lot more that goes on, but honestly, the plot isn't the point in "I Heart Huckabees."

So what's the point?  Part of the point is the sharp, yet elliptical writing.  Part of it is absolutely awesome casting (in that the actors involved are not only perfect for the role, but their personas add to the characters). Jason Schwartzman does what only he can do: be conflicted and confused, sympathetic, but also kind of unlikable at the same time.  Jude Law is a dick, in the way that a confident, good-looking man in a suit can be a dick.  Mark Wahlberg does confused and on the verge of violence better than anyone during ordinary circumstances.  Here, he's the chaos that a bunch of philosophers can't quite explain or contain.  And if this film didn't exist, someone would have to create it so that Lily Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman could do exactly what it is that they do here.  I'm not sure you could pick two better people to embody just what it is that a pair of married "existential detectives" are.

As for the story, it's more or less about pairs, and the relationships between them.  Hoffman and Tomlin exist as a unit, a crazy-ass, impenetrable unit that baffles everyone.  Albert, at different times in the film, is paired off with either his rival, his manipulative guru, or with Tommy, exploring "truth" together.  Ultimately, the real question is what do these relationships mean; it's as if all of the people populating this film have either never understood or have entirely forgotten what relationships mean and are for.  This film is less dry than that might sound; anyone who explores philosophy will come to understand the humor inherent in trying to understand what things really mean.  And this film downright hilarious at times, confusing at times, very awkward at times, but it's never a chore to watch.

"I Heart Huckabees" is a bizarre, weird, unique film.  If you were a fan of 90's indie films, that's a good reference point to start from here.  You can enjoy the round-about way the plot turns in on itself (and it does make sense, if you're paying attention), or you can just enjoy a bunch of committed weirdos trying to find some answers and happiness.  As Mark Wahlberg's character keeps saying, it's important to ask these questions.  You might not find any answers (especially the answers you might hope for), but one's curiosity about what's happening around them is important.

3.5 / 5 - TV

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