Feb 1, 2013

[Movies] I ♥ Huckabees (2004)

Tobie insisted that I watch this movie despite the fact that it's not exactly something that I've ever heard about before. But that's generally how we work when it comes to things like movies and TV shows - we seem to be constantly introducing the other to new stories that we found interesting or intriguing. More often than not it does work out the for best. At the very least, it means we both get to try something new.

And I have to admit that I do like quirky, thoughtful movies like this. They're not always easy to understand, but that does not necessarily take away from the entertainment value of the work as a whole. It's probably why I enjoy Wes Anderson movies so much. For some reason his movies really hit rather obscure parts of my sense of humor while giving me a lot to think about and appreciate as well.

And while this is not a Wes Anderson creation, it certainly has a similar feel. And having Jason Schwartzman involved rather contributes to that notion as well.

Synopsis: I ♥ Huckabees (or I Heart Huckabees or I Love Huckabees) is a 2004 "philosophical comedy" as Wikipedia tags it. It was directed by David O. Russel, who also co-wrote the screenplay together with Jeff Baena.

Albert (Jason Schwartzman) is the head of the local chapter of an ecological conservation group of sorts known as the Open Spaces Coalition. They're currently campaigning against the destruction of a local marsh to make way for a new branch of the major chain of department stores known as Huckabees. Albert is trying to deal with Brad (Jude Law), a sales executive at Huckabees who is trying to supplant Albert as leader of Open Spaces in order to protect Huckabees and its interests.

Albert eventually makes an appointment with Vivian Jaffe (Lily Tomlin), a supposed "existential detective" after finding one of their calling cards. Albert is concerned about a particular stranger that he feels he keeps seeing and wonders if it's more than a coincidence. Eventually Vivian agrees to take the case on a pro-bono basis, together with her husband and fellow detective Bernard (Dustin Hoffman). Thus the pair begin to observe his daily routine as they try to understand his life and which coincidences may be more than just coincidences. They also have Albert go through a variety of exercises as part of their philosophy of "universal interconnectivity". And he is introduced to another client of theirs, this being Tommy (Mark Wahlberg), who is a firefighter who is very serious about the dangers of petroleum products.

Now given the existentialist theme at the core of the movie, a lot of the things that the actors get into tend to be rather ridiculous on the surface. But given you open your mind a bit and try to appreciate who almost anything can be connected to one another in a very expansive sense of cause and effect. Thus many scenes almost non sequitur when you get down to it, but that's just how the movie rolls.

Now it always strikes me as strange when we have an actor like Mark Wahlberg delivering large amounts of dialog in one go. It didn't work in The Happening, but it oddly worked here given the strange comedic tone that defines the movie. And it's not like he was an intelligent character - just one who had a heck of a lot to say, especially given his rather strong passions against fossil fuels.

I didn't immediately get Jude Law's contribution to this movie other than (1) demonstrating that he can pull off a decent American accent and (2) act like a dick throughout the movie. But of course Albert needed to focus his frustrations on someone, I suppose. And it did sort of make a bit more sense in the final resolution of things.

I can understand the rather mixed reviews of the movie. I suppose it depends on how seriously you take the concept behind the movie and perhaps your general appreciation of existentialist thinking in general. And while I'm not philosophy expert, it doesn't take a genius to appreciate just how much a headache some of these ideas can be, especially when you have actors acting them out instead of directly explaining them to the audience or something along those lines.

I definitely loved just how seriously Hoffman and Tomlin took their roles in this given some of the seemingly absurd things they had to do or the sort of conclusions they'd come up with to explain the quirks in Albert's life. It's not beyond expectations for a lot of audience members to just think they're crazy and dismiss their methods off-hand. But over the course of the movie it becomes more and more clear that there's a relative method to their madness that makes greater sense when you take a few steps back to look at the bigger picture. Although the use of recreational drugs may help you reach similar conclusions as well. I jest.

I ♥ Huckabees is certainly an interesting movie but I can't say that I love it. It lacks a wee bit more cohesion in concept and narrative flow to make it a bit more palatable. And maybe it could have benefited from less Mark Wahlberg. Or maybe less clothes on Wahlberg. Beyond my bad jokes, the movie rates as 3.5 seemingly out-of-this-world conclusions the detectives present to Albert out of a possible 5.

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