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Overall Rating

Awesome: 31.71%
Worth A Look44.72%
Average: 0.81%
Pretty Bad: 17.07%
Total Crap: 5.69%

11 reviews, 57 user ratings

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I Heart Huckabees
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by Erik Childress

"David O. Russell does Charlie Kaufman Filtered Through Deepak Chopra"
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2004 TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Thereís almost something existential in itself asking what I Heart Huckabees is all about. Itís an indefinable concoction to describe if trying to convince others to check it out on the spur of a weekend moment. The trailer was of little help except to intrigue us all with an all-name cast and a healthy dose of big laughs. Audiences leaving it will be of lesser assistance when all youíre likely to get out of the appreciative is ďTrust me, just go see itĒ and ďDonít waste your timeĒ from the majority. Donít listen to the latter because Iím in the former, I do know what itís all about and you should too, even if our opinions are 180 degrees apart.

Albert Markovski (Jason Schwartzman) is a rather unproductive environmental activist in the midst of his latest project involving the Huckabees department store and their intention to build on the very land he wishes to save. The chainís chief executive, Brad Stand (Jude Law) belittles Albertís efforts placing his mental faculties in fear of his success and power. When Albert has a thrice encounter with a stranger in a short period of time, he makes the leap of faith that it must have some cosmic significance. Kind of like the card that finds his hand.

It advertises the services of Vivian and Bernard Jaffe (Lily Tomlin & Dustin Hoffman) who run an existential detective agency. Their conceit is that everything in this universe is connected; all part of the same fabric, ruling out all possibilities of coincidence. They take Albertís case, working in tandem as a surveillance team on his every waking and sleeping minute to discover the meaning of Albertís life.

The Jaffes will come into contact with all the principles in Albertís world and heíll even bump into a few of theirs. Tommy Corn (Mark Wahlberg) is a fireman and Jaffe client who is beginning to doubt their teachings. Albert finds an ally in him as their tactics begin to interfere with his work. Together they shall meet the mysterious Caterine Vauban (Isabelle Huppert), a former student of the Jaffes who has made a career out of the polar opposite of their ideology, preaching that nothing is connected and everything has an aura of individuality.

If Iíve overstepped my selling of the movie by using words like existential, ideology and cosmic significance, scaring you off into some artsy-fartsy coma then you might be in that latter category I described earlier. But you shouldnít be scared, since Huckabeesí food for thought does come with a generous side order of solid laughs. Sometimes the characters themselves even acknowledge they have no idea what others are saying to them. But at no time does the heightened plain of the screenplay get buried under the weight of lofty pretension. It converses with you, not AT you, playing the laymanís game when it needs to and trusting your patience for something a bit more challenging than the average comedy or conversely your high-falutiní independent affairs.

Rarely has a film slid into its own consciousness without sounding like that elective you may have taken as a goof in college. Still, there will be many that bail on it quickly and questioning what the hell the point was. Hereís a film that covers a broad spectrum of attacks from religion to politics while embracing our need for them. Why limit ourselves to one set of ideas when the other guy might have something of value to offer as well? Itís easier to veraciously attack than compromise. Itís more beneficial for a corporation to make money on charity than it is to just do the right thing.

One of the filmís highlight scenes is when Albert and Tommy come across a heavily religious family and are led into an angry (but hilarious) debate on the hypocrisy of preaching but hurting others while practicing. The Jaffes are good-intentioned but like every belief group out there, they need members (or clients) and theyíll work pro-bono or charge you depending on your financial lot in life. We can all belong to the same belief system, but human nature and jealousy can tear us apart just as quickly.

The screenplay is a treasure but itís the cast that makes it fly. Hoffman and Tomlin are pathetically earnest and desperate as the team finding their business slowly losing customers and only gaining them when it suits born-agains like Brad who have their own angle in joining. As Brad, Jude Law, who will be asking whatís it all about as Alfie later this year, remains as adept as ever in preventing us from defining his choices, skillfully handling comedy and giving Brad more dimensions than Timothy Leary could hallucinate. Naomi Watts is sexy and a bit nutty as the poster voice, face and body of her husbandís store who begins to understand there may be more to life than selling herself in the name of consumerism. Schwartzman brings with him everything we loved about him in Rushmore, but itís Mark Wahlberg who turns in his best work since Boogie Nights and arguably his best performance to date. No longer the blank slate weíve come to expect from him in recent years, Wahlberg finds confusion, irritation and enlightenment all in humorous detail while putting the pieces of his life together after ďthat big September thing

David O. Russell is on the short list of recent discoveries in the directorís chair that prop movielovers up. Flirting with Disaster was the film that first truly utilized Ben Stillerís neurotic talents and remains one of the greatest of undiscovered comedies. His Gulf War adventure, Three Kings, was one of George Clooneyís first major successes and itís as prescient as ever as we spend each increasing day in our current war. Along with co-screenwriter, Jeff Baena, they have constructed a dizzying shout-out to those who believe thereís only one answer for everything, whether it be faith, political principles or love. The ultimate irony will be how Russell sets out to challenge audiences only to be potentially opposed by those heís pointing a finger straight at. Are the answers out there? Absolutely. Are they in I Heart Huckabees? Not necessarily. But itís up to every individual to discover it for themselves.

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originally posted: 09/25/04 01:50:17
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Toronto Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Mill Valley Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Mill Valley Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Leeds Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Leeds Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

8/11/13 BB I love this movie. It's one of my all time favorites. Just funny. 5 stars
6/27/11 DR A hugely misguided philosophy that fails to satisfy itself within its running time. 1 stars
5/30/10 Roy Unsatisfing and basically random, fails as drama since people don't act like this. 2 stars
3/20/10 OHjAwdl JscaOGTU 1 stars
7/31/08 Ramone Gets better with each viewing - great cast, esp. Wahlberg. 4 stars
3/08/08 pin Wes Anderson meets Charlie Kaufman, sort of. 4 stars
7/11/07 Hello Stranger although dumbed down on thie matter, it is very original. made me think alot! 5 stars
7/10/06 Marty watch it as a parody and it's a lot of absurd fun 5 stars
7/04/06 Ashley Hinz Absolute Trash, I could not finish it. Took it out after less than 10 minutes. 1 stars
3/11/06 Tanya very good very funny 5 stars
2/21/06 Agent Sands Hilarious. Hilarious. Hilarious. Hilarious. Hilarious. 5 stars
2/01/06 chris. people need to read philosophy before hailing this as groundbreaking...but i like it 4 stars
12/14/05 Ewok Best of 2004. Law should have won an Oscar. Best score ever. 5 stars
12/13/05 Citizen Kane C-R-A-P! this movie should be erased!!! 1 stars
12/09/05 millersxing the damn movie crawls inside my head and lays eggs. 5 stars
10/27/05 Lizz Brilliant timing, unprentious sophistication, fun! 5 stars
9/05/05 Mike Simon got it. This film = read everything as fast as possible. Understand? Of course not! 1 stars
8/19/05 ES I'll second Simon's decree 2 stars
7/25/05 Bad Critic Hoffman and Schwartzman are great, but the plot is sort-of hard to follow. 4 stars
6/10/05 Simon This intellectual-bullshit movie is too in love with itself to have any cinematic merit. 2 stars
6/08/05 Agent Sands A very creative and interesting film. Isabelle Huppert gave me a boner, which isn't usual. 5 stars
5/25/05 Jake Funny, Bizarre, and brilliant. 5 stars
5/16/05 Indrid Cold Funny, thought-provoking but uneven in tone and pacing. 4 stars
5/14/05 BoyInTheDesignerBubble One day will be a cult hit like Harold & Maude. 4 stars
5/07/05 Who Am I? Pretentious? For dumbed-down ignorant fools maybe, but a great film for the rest of us 4 stars
5/01/05 Mike Hawk Sublime film balancing metaphysics and comedy 5 stars
4/25/05 OverTheRainbow It's movie that makes you think; by the third time, maybe you will get it 4 stars
3/26/05 hannaho Hilariously transcendental! 4 stars
3/15/05 steandric with naomi watts in a brilliant comic role, nothing can go wrong with this film. 5 stars
3/05/05 chris. warning: you might have to actually use your BRAIN when you watch this movie. not for all! 5 stars
3/05/05 Matthew Studley Worthless piece of garbage. Don't mistake lack of talent for genius. 1 stars
2/26/05 strangelows pretentious, self-indulgent and rather boring crap 2 stars
12/27/04 Steve I was very bored by this movie, despite quality cinemetography. 2 stars
12/20/04 David Alexander All dialogue not funny very sick good actors bad film 1 stars
12/18/04 AL JOHNSON A clever,refreshingly different film.My faith in the film industy is restored. 5 stars
12/06/04 Jimmy Kustes I second the Jon Brion comment 5 stars
11/10/04 maximus Really funny but odd 4 stars
11/09/04 scooter The Soundtrack by Jon Brion is awesome! 5 stars
11/07/04 Elena If you didn't appreciate this you are intellectually devoid. A masterpiece! 5 stars
10/28/04 Amy Brilliant, but not for dumbed-down audiences! 5 stars
10/28/04 Lily superb: when brad&albert circle after al sees brad cry, centraly illustrates we are All One 5 stars
10/27/04 Mike H. This film is one of the most enjoyable,entertaining and thought provoking I have seen. 5 stars
10/26/04 ajay funny at parts, but it was a little too abstract for me. 2 stars
10/25/04 Jay Finally a movie worth the $9.00 admission price! 5 stars
10/25/04 Titus Not quite as satisfying as it promised, but a thoroughly worthy film. 4 stars
10/24/04 DM Fucking weird but surprisingly funny 4 stars
10/23/04 Kristen Hannum Brilliant fillm - funny, moving, thought-provoking. A feast for the confused. 5 stars
10/23/04 jcjs loved it 5 stars
10/15/04 Donanymous If you didn't like this movie, you're just too dumb to get it. It was brilliant!! 5 stars
10/13/04 Sherry original, funny, terrific cast, but a lot of work. 4 stars
10/13/04 makafka Liked the opening credits music, but the movie was just plain flat. 2 stars
10/12/04 asina one of those movies made only to get good reviews. 2 stars
10/11/04 A. Forbes totally unique. genius, if you ever read jps. 5 stars
10/08/04 Paul G. An new new cult film destined for deconstruction thru caffinated anaylsis with enthusiasm 5 stars
10/05/04 Amyjo Marsh Unfunny, pompous, pretentious, full of itself, and way, way too long 2 stars
9/12/04 Gregory Really funny and smart 5 stars
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  01-Oct-2004 (R)
  DVD: 22-Feb-2005



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