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I [Heart] Huckabees

As “Stop W. Day” approaches, one looks to comedy to dispel the malaise brought on by the grim realization that among one’s countrymen and women there are those who can gaze upon the folly of W. and say, “Thanks, I’ll have four more of this disastrous, repulsive regime”.   Comedies like this one, for example.   (Actually, this film has nothing to do with the election.   I just couldn’t resist a gratuitous swipe at W.).  

“I [Heart] Huckabees” is the latest from writer/director David O. Russell, whose remarkable “Three Kings” so nicely eviscerated the folly of Bush I’s Gulf War.   Russell reminds me of a quote I recently read from Nicole Kidman (not that she’s in this movie) in which she said that if you look at the directors she tends to work with, “they are philosophers. They are not about sheer entertainment but, I suppose, addressing some of the bigger questions in life. They don't necessarily give you the answer.”   Russell is that kind of director, and “Huckabees” is that kind of movie.

Jason Schwartzman plays a young environmental campaigner who employs a pair of “existential detectives” (Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin) to discover if there’s any meaning to a series of coincidental encounters he’s had with a tall African doorman.   Hoffman and Tomlin’s contention is that there’s a connection between all of us, citing the fact that all living things--and the earth itself--are made up of matter from the Big Bang.   Isabelle Huppert plays the pair’s ideological rival, a dark French existentialist who sees in the universe only a great void: there’s no interconnectedness and no meaning.   Huckabees is the Wal-Mart-like corporation which seeks to co-opt Schwartzman’s environmental coalition for P.R. purposes.   Rounding out a fine cast are Jude Law, Naomi Watts, and Mark Wahlberg in a very funny turn as a fireman who in the wake of September 11, 2001 has become obsessed with the way the world turns on the political economy of oil.

This is a comedy of “the wacky human condition”, as Tomlin has put it, and I thought it was hilarious although I can’t say it’s for a general audience.   Like all philosophy, it’s an investigation into “man and his place in the universe”, and as with philosophy, you may occasionally be left scratching your head or wondering what’s the point, but it’s worth it for the odd insight, the delightful mental stimulation, and to enjoy the very human endeavor of the pursuit of truth and understanding.

- Oct 29, 2004 

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