Wednesday, November 01, 2006

I ♥ Huckabees

I ♥ Huckabees is a deeply philosophical movie filled with probing… questions about the… nature of existence and… how everything is… connected and… what was I saying, again? Eh, it probably doesn’t matter anyway.

This film is nuts. I don’t just mean the characters in it, or the circumstances they find themselves in, or even the ideas behind it; I mean the actual movie. It’s totally froot loops insane. From the very start, I got that it would be a zany ride, and I definitely wasn’t disappointed. It asks a few very important questions, and the characters make some deep claims, but it’s a comedy. And because of the nature of the comedy presented, you wonder if it actually is asking them.

The movie has a somewhat wide cast of characters. First up is Albert (Jason Schwartzmann), an environmental activist/bad poet who is simultaneously self-righteous and self-loathing. He goes to two “existential detectives” (whatever they are), a married couple named Bernard (Dustin Hoffman) and Vivian (Lily Tomlin). Under his pro-bono employ, they observe him in every aspect of his life, taking feverish notes. At the same time, they are “investigating” Tommy (Mark Wahlberg), a firefighter who goes to fire scenes on a bicycle because he’s concerned about fuel emissions. He becomes Albert’s “other,” someone else under investigation by Bernard and Vivian. “Others” are meant to help each other through a difficult time. What Albert hires them for is ridiculous, and doesn’t have much bearing on the rest of the plot. He asks them to please stay out of his work life, a request which they of course ignore, and they discover that his environmental corporation is being taken over from the inside out by a kind of hyper-capitalist uber-Walmart named Huckabees. The architect of this friendly-but-hostile takeover is Brad (Jude Law), who’s in a relationship with Huckabees model and spokesbabe Dawn (Naomi Watts). We pretty much have polar opposites in Albert and Brad; indeed, this seems to be a movie about opposites (or perhaps complements), as Albert and Tommy fit into that category, as well. The Bernard/Vivian team and a competing psychiatrist named Caterine (Isabelle Huppert), with their opposite philosophies about the interconnectedness of everything, seem to fit into it as well, as does Dawn with herself (figure that one out, I dare ya!).

A few things in that explanation needed further explanation, and I purposely left them unexplained, since that’s what the movie does, too. It doesn’t bother itself with trivial details since that’s not what the movie is really about. A lot of the dialogue could double for a Philosophy 101 class, but it’s always connected to a particular character and what they’re dealing with. At the same time, it’s a kooky, zany ride that checks reality at the door and asks you to as well, and also has the ability to laugh at itself. It’s a movie about the struggle between the abstract and the concrete, conservatism and liberalism, and nature and technology, but it’s also about the complete ridiculousness of all those things. It points out the stupidity of philosophers while it simultaneously philosophizes in and of itself. More importantly, it does that in a way that doesn’t seem forced, half-assed, or condescending.

The actors in it are pretty good, but I especially enjoyed Mark Wahlberg and Naomi Watts. Wahlberg was at once hysterical, tragic, and uncompromising. Given this performance and some others in recent years (The Departed, Three Kings, The Perfect Storm, Boogie Nights), I really think he could pull off any role he sets his mind to with incredible ease. Watts was vapid, spoiled, child-like, wishy-washy, and precisely right for her role. She also falls into the “smokin’ hot” category.

I ♥ Huckabees assumes a lot about the audience, and is something people who like concrete ideas and familiarity with movies simply will not enjoy. That’s a shame, though, because the movie is very charming, and I found it pretty fun to go along with its madcap pacing and plot. You just have to be willing to put yourself in the hands of the film, and that’s something a lot of people aren’t willing to do with any film. But the performances are funny in that wacky, nonsensical way, and the movie itself has an inspired madness that I appreciated. And in its own laughably twisted way, it even has a happy ending.

Iconic lines:
“I don’t know what you guys are talking about. I thought we were talking about petroleum.”
“There is no remainder in the mathematics of infinity.”
“I’m in my tree with the Dixie Chicks and they’re making me feel better."

22 Rating: 13

Particle Man

1 comment:

Dr. Worm said...

"Inspired madness" is a perfect summation of this movie. I saw it when it was in theaters and I really need to see it again. I remember being briefly impressed with the Hollywood movie-making machine, that they would allow such a blatant affront to traditional movies to be made. It proves Hollywood isn't making their movies with a cookie cutter after all.