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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 20.15%
Average: 11.94%
Pretty Bad: 2.99%
Total Crap: 10.45%

9 reviews, 80 user ratings

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Happiness (1998)
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by Chris Parry

"Just deal."
5 stars

Todd Solondz is basically the anti-director director. He casts his films with virtual unknowns, he writes stories that turn people’s stomachs, and he flat out refuses to tone things down to ensure his films get a clean MPAA rating. That said, he also directs (or anti-directs) some of the finest works of human cinema of the modern day. Welcome To The Dollhouse was his first film and it was a runaway cult success, earning far more in video rentals than it ever did in theaters. Happiness, his second effort, took the dour tone of Welcome to the Dollhouse a step further and cut a swathe through audiences, many of which couldn’t see the point and many others of which thought they’d just witnessed brilliance.

An ensemble cast, including Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Jane Adams, Dylan Baker, Lara Flynn Boyle, Camryn Manheim, Ben Gazarra (among others) portrays the secret lives of an extended New Jersey family, all of whom keep a gallant public face held up over their dark realities. Hoffman has a demented crush on Boyle, culminating in stalking and perverse phone calls, Adams is screwing a Russian cab driver, and Baker plays dearly beloved dad while he secretly drugs and abuses his son’s little league pals.

To be sure, this isn’t strictly drama, in fact Solondz most certainly sees it as dark comedy, but with some horrific imagery and finely tuned performances, it’ll be a strong-stomached individual that can sit through the whole thing without feeling just a little nauseated.

Audiences and censors freaked out at one particular shot, a cum splat against a wall when Hoffman gets a little too much pleasure from a freaky phone call, but when I personally asked Solondz about this shot a few years ago he told me that it was, in his eyes, “a 90’s tear-drop.”

Sometimes films can be a little too symbolic for their own good, but if you tackle a Solondz flick with an open mind, you may see more of his characters, scenes and storylines in your own life than you’re really comfortable with.

And that’s the point. Take it all, bitch.

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originally posted: 10/30/02 07:28:06
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User Comments

3/25/18 morris campbell twisted trash wildly over praised by some critics yuck 1 stars
5/08/15 stanley welles a brave and brilliantly realized piece of work 5 stars
8/07/14 David Hollingsworth Savages, twisted and brilliantly perverse. 5 stars
10/24/09 Peter Best review (alongside roger ebert's) Peerless black comedy, unusually harsh drama.Suberb! 5 stars
5/27/09 Josie Cotton is a goddess One of the best movies ever made... just make sure you have a strong stomach 5 stars
4/02/09 matt a great character drama and a hilarious black comedy. a little nihilistic though. 4 stars
8/11/08 erin u was disgusted the first time, learned to like it by the 2nd, total hilarity by the 3rd 5 stars
10/24/07 Ivana Mann Tired foray into the Perversity=Art school of "independent" filmmaking.Yawwwwn. 2 stars
2/09/07 mckrob loved it ! 5 stars
3/18/06 MP Bartley Scaborous, black and biting comedy. Hoffman, Adams and Baker are tremendous. 4 stars
1/11/06 malcolm this movie was in the comedy section of my favorite video store. NOT FUNNY. 3 stars
12/03/05 Jennifer S. Very strange movie, the funniest part was the lady who killed the doorman. 3 stars
8/02/05 Indrid Cold The forced quirkiness is forgivable because it's so smart, funny and insightful. 5 stars
6/19/05 DM Well-acted and occasionally moving but relentlessly downbeat and sometimes mean-spirited. 3 stars
12/23/04 Nick Boyd very disturbing and insightful look at suburbia 5 stars
8/16/04 Peter James Don't mind the contradictory title...this one is plain brilliant 5 stars
7/14/04 Daveman Making a laughing stock out of manic depressives would be okay if it were actually funny. 2 stars
6/23/04 tokio dixx a masterpiece 5 stars
6/05/04 MyGreenBed Easily Solondz's masterpiece. Still has his brand of shock, though done with a point (?). 4 stars
5/29/04 Proteus Didn't stop laughing after the park scene - even as people walked out. Bleak and funny. 5 stars
2/23/04 Naturezrevenge Pitch-black humour for the sick fuck in all of us. Feel sympathy for the pedo. You will. 5 stars
11/19/03 s'tude This film made me feel uncomfortable unlike any film i've seen recently. Great acting. 4 stars
9/15/03 confused i guess you have to be stoned to get the movie? 1 stars
11/15/02 Stevo 'We're not laughing at you. We're laughing with you." "But I'm not laughing..." 5 stars
10/30/02 Charles Tatum Dare to be different 5 stars
10/11/02 rue the whirl solondz makes movies for the shock value, but doing so, he shows us how pathetic we can be 4 stars
4/24/02 Wyatt Winston Hell Yeah 5 stars
3/25/02 Gary Glitter Love it !!!!!!!! 5 stars
1/08/02 Spyguy2 The movie American Beauty didn't have the balls to be...mesmerizing & disturbing 5 stars
12/12/01 slappy jacks sticking pictures to the wall with jizz yeah!!! dig it one sick fuck of a movie 5 stars
8/30/01 Lee American Beauty with fewer outright laughs but more disturbing and thought provoking 4 stars
4/25/01 Spetters Wow! hilarious and unsettling! 5 stars
3/19/01 J.Arcane Better than American Beauty 5 stars
3/07/01 Scott It is found under comedy but you feel uncomforable laughing at this movie.I loved it 5 stars
2/21/01 Rocket Boy Biting. Shouls be seen by everyone...with an open-mind. 5 stars
2/06/01 Classcidog Disgusting,perverted,disturbing,but funny as hell 4 stars
1/03/01 Lynkay I want a copy of this engaging, hilarious film! Reminds you of Woody Allen's style. 5 stars
12/11/00 meghan this movie was such a piece of crap. yet, i found myself watching the whole damn thing 1 stars
11/12/00 biggun great, hilarious, courageous film but a bit uneven in parts. 5 stars
9/27/00 Chris Jerome one of the worst movies ever 1 stars
9/06/00 Boy In The Designer Bubble child porn at its best. The director should be arrested. 1 stars
7/11/00 Jami Disgusting, repulsive, and perverted. 1 stars
6/24/00 Aaron White Eightball's Dan Clowes did the poster, with good reason. Ibsen meets Levittown. 5 stars
5/01/00 perverted pixie Ironic title, this film is so depressing its hilarious! 5 stars
11/13/99 Matthew Smith Disturbing and very confronting at times. 5 stars
10/28/99 Ralf Behet The director shows only little sympathy for his characters. Too little! 2 stars
10/27/99 hum depresing and great are not the same thing 3 stars
9/17/99 strike Very bleak and very funny.Great performances,great script,great direction. simply GREAT! 5 stars
8/21/99 Fork Lists up with fucked up films like "cemetary man" and "dead alive" but much worse. 4 stars
8/19/99 nostradmous Worst film all year 1 stars
8/02/99 Weird Andy It lit up my life. 5 stars
7/12/99 ken heine the dream scene was cool. 4 stars
6/25/99 cinebimbo The sick underbelly of suburbia exposed at last! Fuck "Shakespeare"--the best film of 1998! 5 stars
6/19/99 movie troll Perfect acting, perfect script, perfectly disturbing. 5 stars
6/15/99 Ver-Jun Move over orson welles, Todd Solondz is a film god! he is my new GOD! 5 stars
6/02/99 mammyrammer I came. 5 stars
5/13/99 Skye A very good movie I never want to see again. 5 stars
5/12/99 Dove Top of the class of 1999 5 stars
5/03/99 jenna devoid i see no necessity in procuring sympathy or humor directed towards a pedophile!! 2 stars
4/27/99 Annearchy, Damme, Satanne See this. Todd Solondz is a genius. Suburban nightmares. 5 stars
4/03/99 Lily I feel pain. Thank you. 5 stars
3/14/99 Ah Dooey Great movie. Hurts you right between the eyes. 5 stars
1/13/99 lawrence most amazing film in 10 years 5 stars
1/07/99 Jon sexcellent 5 stars
12/16/98 Sammy the CodFish A great film. Kicks you right in the guts. 5 stars
12/13/98 Amadou Best movie of 1998. David Lynch and Robert Altman should be taking notes. 5 stars
12/11/98 Mike McFaland probably the funniest movie I've seen in two or three years 5 stars
12/07/98 Gamma It was a good film, but I feel traumatized now. 4 stars
11/26/98 Missy You'll never look at family life the same way again... 5 stars
11/25/98 Bridgette who thinks of this? talk about original! 5 stars
11/22/98 Brindle I would say that it takes a lot to shock me and leave me somewhat disturbed! This did it! 5 stars
11/15/98 dforcher Interesting. Fast 2 hours. Examples of how sexuality ties into pursuit of happiness. 4 stars
11/13/98 Lord Of The Dunce One of those films that disturbs and enthralls. Solondz is da man. 5 stars
11/02/98 foozil Look! They're all miserable! Isn't that great?!? 1 stars
10/21/98 grunter brilliant daredevil cinema; dizzying, jawdropping script; best "cum" scene of '98!!! 5 stars
10/19/98 Aint-It-Cool The performances in this movie are uniformily brilliant. 5 stars
10/19/98 Vincent A worthy follow-up to WELCOME... but nearly as great as has been suggested 4 stars
10/18/98 Chris It was a happy movie... Or Not. It was great though if you are old enough go see it! 4 stars
10/17/98 Mr Showbiz Depravity in the ’burbs. Certain to be the most-talked-about indie of the year. 4 stars
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  16-Oct-1998 (R)


  25-Mar-1999 (R)

Directed by
  Todd Solondz

Written by
  Todd Solondz

  Jane Adams
  Dylan Baker
  Ben Gazzara
  Marla Maples
  Jon Lovitz

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