2/14/2006

I Heart Huckabees

This was one of my top three movies of 2004. I really loved it and own it now and giggle every damn time I watch it.

It is the story of guy (Jason Schwartzman) who hires two existential detectives to try and figure out some stuff in his life. The two, Lilly Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman, take on a bunch of other clients along the way, including two great performances by Naomi Watts, as the spokesmodel for a department store chain, called Huckabees, and Mark Walhburg, as a firefighter who is starting to doubt the detectives work, and is paired up with Schwartzman.

This is some smart comedy!

Grade: A+

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2 Comments:

Blogger equippedtofascinate said...

I didn't get this movie. I heard it was supposed to be really funny, but I didn't really think it was.

1:49 PM, February 14, 2006  
Anonymous pat said...

Charlie,

I wrote this DVD review for the small paper I used to work for. Re-reading it now, my take on the film seems a bit facile. And the writing seems jokey in a forced way. I'm sure I was speeding through it, way past deadline. Anyway, here it is:

On the Small Screen
"I Heart Huckabees"
By PAT MUIR
"I Heart Huckabees" could be the first mainstream popomo (postpostmodern) film.

Then again it might be post-pomo but pre-popomo -- you know somewhere in that gray area. It's hard to tell.

It's a joke for people who've listened to too many very serious discussions by too many people trying to prove how smart they are.

And that's the reason I like "I Heart Huckabees." It's an "existential comedy" that delivers some provocative concepts but mostly just makes fun of the pretentiousness too often inherent in purportedly deep-thinking art and literature.

Sample dialogue:
• Vivian (Lily Tomlin): Have you ever transcended space and time?
• Albert (Jason Schwartzman): Yes. ... No. ... Time, not space. ... I don't know what you're talking about.

Besides calling it a satire and a farce, neither of which is entirely true, it's hard to describe "I Heart Huckabees." The plot gives us Albert, a troubled environmentalist who hires "existential detectives" Vivian and Bernard (Dustin Hoffman) to find meaning in a series of coincidences in his life. To his chagrin, they follow him everywhere and are soon joined by archrival French existentialist Caterine Vauban, who wants to steal Albert as a client.

Weird? Yes. But what seems like weirdness for weirdness' sake is, upon closer inspection, brilliant weirdness designed more to make us laugh than to deconstructs our worldviews -- that deconstruction, however, remains its ostensible purpose, at least in terms of plot.

The main reason "I Heart Huckabees" works is the all-star cast. The actors play with the material. They frolic through the (intentionally) puffed-up dialogue. They revel in its unintelligibility.

Hoffman and Mark Wahlberg, who plays a firefighter hellbent on stopping the world's petroleum consumption, are particularly sublime in their earnest absurdity. Tomlin and Naomi Watts are perfect for their roles, as is Jude Law as Albert's business rival, Brad, the film's straight man as much as it has one.

That's not to take away from the screenwriting. There are some hilarious lines in "I Heart Huckabees."

It gets confusing because Hoffman, Wahlberg and Tomlin deliver them with such over-the-top conviction. It's easy to look at the film as a satire or a straight farce. But then you realize "I Heart Huckabees" is at least somewhat serious in its themes -- despite the fact it's getting those themes across by making fun of them.

And that's classic popomo.

6:06 PM, February 16, 2006  

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