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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)
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Duke of Fluke

"And let's call the new Arnie movie 'Buttercup'! That'll fool em!"
3 stars

White middle-class America exposed as not very nice! Title of movie misleads movie-going public! Large unattractive men masturbate! Film at eleven.

Happiness is a strange one. Billed as a dark comedy, this ever-so-similar-to Altman's "Short Cuts" movie revolves around a family of three sisters, their lives, loves and losses. As with Short Cuts, all the characters inter-link as the movie explores life, the pursuit of happiness and the effects of one on the other. Sounds like a lot to take in? It is a non-linear, open-plan plot, raising a whole range of issues (more on them later) and exploring a lifetime's worth of emotions.

The movie's best trick is its title. Beginning with Jon Lovitz (in a cameo) being dumped by the youngest of the sisters (the ironically titled "Joy") and lashing out with a bitter personal attack, you beign to wonder whether the boys down at Big Choice haven't put the wrong movie in the wrong box. It is, in a very real sense, unrelentingly personal, and consequently savagely bleak. But that's where the trick works - you begin to think about the rare moments of happiness in their depressing, desperate lives.

I must admit, I didn't find it funny, black comedy or no. The intrusive nature of the movie, exposing some of the few life experiences as yet unexplored by Hollywood, made me uncomfortable. Maybe it's just cos I'm English and repressed, but there was altogether too much ejaculate on show (including a totally unecessary and gratuitous cum-transfer that will have you ralphing into your date's lap). The sex is seedy, dirty and on the edges of social acceptability - and even then it crosses the line with an unpleasant look into the mind of a peodophile.

This is a very white movie. There are only white actors. No one has a problem with their job (apart from Joy, but not much) or money, no drug problems, they all live in good houses and surprisingly, given the breadth of issues in the movie, race never comes up. As for happiness, it takes all forms: change, charity, revenge, self-pity, self-delusion, self-abuse, acceptance, rejection and not forgetting buggering little leaguers. As for happiness for the viewer, you can pretty much forget about it, unless you don't mind the intrusiveness and can laugh at emotional fuckwits. Every time things seem to be going right, especially with the luckless Joy, the sense of impending doom dashes any glimmers of sympathy with the characters. These people are the Jonahs and the Quasimodos of this world, freak magnets who can smell their own, my natural reaction to whom was to recoil and scrabble for the fast-forward. Having said that of course, that's another thing that Happiness throws out - judge not lest you be judged. Sneaky bastards have thought of everything.

So I have no idea how to rate this movie. Like Blair Witch, it did more for thought-provocation than live up to its billing. The Short Cuts comparison stands, with the misery of Nil By Mouth, and with a cast including Philip Seymour Hoffman (Boogie Nights), Lara Flynn Boyle (Twin Peaks) and Cynthia Stevenson (The Player), this should be a killer movie. But ultimately, the never ending stream of bitterness, perversion and personal tragedy is too much to take.

Some places are too dark to be explored, but that doesn't mean people won't continue to try.

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originally posted: 11/29/99 11:41:35
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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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