I [Heart] Deep Thoughts On Existence
Now what should I say about I [Heart] Huckabees? I just watched it, a movie that I had been wanting to see for awhile now. The writer and director, David O. Russell, impressed me greatly with his last film, Three Kings. Thus, I was eager to see his follow up and became more so upon seeing the trailer over and over at work on the promo DVD we loop in the department. I loved the trailer's closing montage with music from the movie, throwing out random shots and scenes to screw with the viewer's head and leave you wondering just what the hell the movie is about.
If you've seen it, you know. If you've read a review of it, you probably know. The movie is about existence, about existentialism. It's about what the hell the point of life is. It's a strange and bizarre and uneven movie, one that seems to have so many ideas bouncing around that you hardly know where to begin. It opens strangely, in a confusing manner, and quickly shows itself to be one very odd movie, as Jason Schwartzman's character, Albert, goes to see a pair of existentialist detectives--played by Lily Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman. As that scene progressed, I was left wondering what the hell I had gotten myself in to. The movie was strange, clearly, and I suspected it was not going to get any less strange as it progressed.
And oh, it doesn't. There are bizarre daydreams and weird visual effects and the conflicting base ideas of whether everything is connected or if everything is nothing, pointless, utterly unconnected. It's a great conflict of ideas for a movie, but I'm not sure if I [Heart] Huckabees is nearly as great a movie as it aspires to be.
I hardly know what to think of this film. There are some great momemnts in it, without a doubt. There are some funny as all fuck scenes, to boot. When Mark Whalberg's character, Tommy, and Albert have dinner with a Christian family and their adopted Sudanese son, well . . . it gets out of hand quickly. Once you have Whalberg's character yelling at the father about petroleum and the father yelling at Schwartzman's character about Socialism, the scene becomes utterly bizarre, but disarming and entertaining at the same time.
Oh, but what to think about this? Existentialism is right up my alley, just the kind of deep shit that any self-respecting mid-twenties person such as myself likes to pretend to seriously think about. And, despite the flippancy of that sentence, I do sometimes think about all of that. What is the point of being here? What is the point of existence? I don't know, I'll say without hesitation, but I have certain thoughts on the subject. And as I've written before, I have certain thoughts on the idea of whether or not everything is connected. I tend to fall into the connected camp, and yet there are times when I think that it's all bullshit, that this life is little more than floating through existence and trying, hoping, that there is something greater and deeper behind what seems to be endless and random inflictions of pain.
Naomi Watts is wonderful as Dawn. She's enthusiastic and kind of nuts, heartwarming and a little heartbreaking, completely disarming and open. She nails her character and brings a spark whenever she's on screen. Hoffman and Tomlin are silly as the detectives, Bernard and Vivian, fairly entertaining and making a real go of their characters. Whalberg is magnificent--he just throws himself into the role with complete abandon, being ridiculous and depressed and quirky without the slightest bit of hesitation. And Jude Law, playing Brad, is very good, starting out with a thick sense of charm and inauthenticity before eventually devolving into chaos and uncertainty.
But I just don't know what to say about this movie. I don't think it works, not entirely. Yet I would encourage anyone to see it, to at least give it a shot. It's very entertaining at times and confusing at other times. There were parts when I felt frustrated and too often the movie felt lost and even listless. To say this film is a mixed bag would be an impressive understatement. I have complete admiration for Russell for tackling the subject, though, and for trying to do it in a way that is light-hearted and entertaining but that does not give the subject short-thrift, either. Dwelling on matters of existentialism can easily lead to heavy-handedness, moralizing and dark and bleak tones, but Russell does not fall into that trap here. He keeps things moving along, pieces together his story very carefully, and makes his points without ever lecturing the audience.
It feels like there is a much better movie lurking under this one, though. It feels as if there was the potential for something transcendant and insightful, a movie that would punch you right in the gut and not even bother apologizing for it. Instead, this is like an evening of curious, possibly drunken chatting with friends. It's fun and enjoyable and can even lead you to some good thoughts, maybe make you stop every now and then and start to realize something that maybe you hadn't before, but it's not enlightenment. It's not anything that will leave you gasping for breath or evaluating your life. It's nothing that will have you thinking that perhaps you've had life all wrong, or at the very least that you've had an incomplete understanding of it.
For me, I [Heart] Huckabees simply left me feeling pleased but unfulfilled, entertained and yet wanting more. I say watch it, enjoy it, but don't expect too much from it. It's not what it could have been, which is a shame, but it's well worth your time anyway.