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I HEART HUCKABEES (R) (2004)

Fox Searchlight

Official Site

Director: David O. Russell

Producers: Gregory Goodman, Scott Rudin, David O. Russell

Written by: David O. Russell, Jeff Baena

Cast: Jason Schwartzmann, Dustin Hoffman, Lily Tomlin, Jude Law, Mark Wahlberg, Naomi Watts, Isabelle Huppert

Rating:


I Heart Huckabees markets itself as a movie on existentialism, and this is true. However, the film is less about persuading the filmgoer to think philosophically than it is about commenting on those who do. In the meantime, writer/director David O. Russell has a fine time setting up absurd and often humorous sequences that characterize the entire movie.

Seven main characters populate the film, and they are so eccentric in and of themselves that, though the story becomes increasingly bizarre as it progresses, somehow we believe that things like this could perhaps happen to these people. First there is Albert Markovski (Schwartzmann), founder of the local chapter of the Open Spaces Coalition, an organization that attempts to preserve the environment for future generations. His latest accomplishment is saving a plot of marshland, or more specifically, a rock in the middle of that marsh. But ignore that for a moment, because that’s not why he visits the office of Jaffe & Jaffe, existential detectives. Here Albert is entreating Vivian and Bernard Jaffe (Tomlin and Hoffman) to figure out his coincidence—why he keeps bumping into an African man—and what it all means.

Vivian and Albert sit in chairs facing each other. Vivian asks if Albert is ready for the truth of reality, because once she tells him, it will dismantle the world as we know it. Matrix flashback, anyone? Yet the existential world is drastically different from the machine sci-fi world. Bernard describes it as a big blanket of truth—a big picture where everyone and everything is connected, even the marsh.

Within the next few days, Albert’s life becomes intertwined with the lives of Tommy Corn (Wahlberg), a firefighter; Brad Stand (Law), the marketing executive of Huckabees Corporation; and Dawn Campbell (Watts), a Huckabees model and Brad’s girlfriend. Incidentally, but not coincidentally, all three are also clients of Jaffe & Jaffe.

I Heart Huckabees is one of those movies that has such a convoluted plot that people who ask “So, what is it about?” are met either with blank stares or a 10-minute rambling explanation. Case in point: I Heart Huckabees doesn’t have just one official website, it has four. One is the Open Spaces website that centers on Albert and his vision. The second is the Jaffe & Jaffe website. A third is seemingly the corporate website of the retail chain Huckabees. Finally there is Tommy Corn’s blog, filled with his questions on the meaning of life as well as his views against petroleum use.

There is a lot of talking in this movie, some of it very witty. The interplay between characters and comedic timing are like watching a ridiculous argument—pitiful and funny at the same time. However, none of it is very thought-provoking, which is a shame because of the film’s rich subject of existentialism, nihilism, and the meaning of life. Somehow in the midst of all the comedy, a joke has been made out of philosophical questioning, and the filmgoer becomes an outsider detached from wrestling with the big questions.

—Kelly Hsu

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



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