Interesting Premise Can't Save "I Heart Huckabees"
- Annabelle Robertson Entertainment Critic
- 2004 9 Sep
Release Date: October 1, 2004
Rating: R (for language and a sex scene)
Run Time: 1 hr. 46 min.
Director: David O. Russell
Actors: Jason Schwartzman, Isabelle Huppert, Dustin Hoffman, Lily Tomlin, Jude Law, Mark Wahlberg, Naomi Watts,
Oh, I’m having an identity crisis! You see, I had to see this film, and it was really awful, but I do this for a living, so I couldn’t leave, and now I’m wondering if it was all a coincidence. I mean, who am I? And does it matter? And how many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop?
In writer and director David O. Russell’s (“Three Kings,” “Spanking the Monkey”) latest film, Jason Schwartzman plays Albert Markovski, a tree-hugging poet who enlists the help of two “existential detectives,” Vivian and Bernard (Lily Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman) to help him figure out a mysterious coincidence. Vivian and Bernard specialize in coincidences, and Albert has had three chance encounters with a Sudanese doorman – which must mean something.
The detectives work by placing their patients in body bags and teaching them how to “dismantle” their identities. Why? Because “it’s only when we stop thinking that we start being.” Why? Because “there’s no remainder in the mathematics of infinity.” Confused? It’s okay. So are they. In fact, that’s the whole point. Or is it? Oh no, I think I need “a connection!” But will you be my “other?”
The rest of the plot – what exists of one – centers around Albert’s desire to save some wetland (including the fakest looking rock I’ve ever seen) and his fight against a big corporation called Huckabees. Albert’s biggest problem is the dashing but conniving executive Brad Stand (Jude Law), but when Brad hires Bernard and Vivian to help him and his girlfriend, Dawn (Naomi Watts), the Huckabees poster girl, things really get deep. Dawn decides she doesn’t want to be pretty anymore and goes Amish, to everyone’s dismay. But remember, the key to the universe is that “There is no you. There is no me. Everything is the same, even if it’s different,” along with a lot of other mumbo-jumbo that the word “psychobabble” would be too kind to describe (“babble” suffices.)
Meanwhile, Albert is “placed” with Tommy Corn (Mark Wahlberg), a firefighter obsessed with petroleum use post 9-11, whom Vivian and Bernard believe will be an excellent “other” for Albert to connect with. Instead, Albert connects – rather disgustingly, I might add – with Katherine Vauban (Isabelle Huppert), a renegade student of Vivian and Bernard who has eschewed existentialism for nihilism and who runs her own sleuthing business. They do stupid things like set Brad’s house on fire, have sex in the mud and beat themselves in the face in order to “stop thinking.” That’s in between the stupid things that Vivian and Bernard and Albert do. And Dawn and Tommy, too – like beating themselves in the face until they are rendered comatose.
The plot of this movie meanders like a bunch of ecologists lost in the Amazon. “We’re all connected” is a revolving buzz phrase, like so many others, but unfortunately, nothing else in this movie is actually connected. The film jumps from one scene to another, Robert Altman style, with little relationship between the scenarios. Moreover, neither Schwartzman nor Law was credible, which seriously hampered the film. Schwartzman was a wooden dummy, mouthing his lines. And although Law can act, he cannot pull off an American accent – unlike Watts, who was brilliant in her stupidity. Hoffman, in a Beatles wig, and Tomlin, are both good, but they just keep mouthing the same dribble, over and over, so nothing ever advances. The best character was Wahlberg, who was funny despite his rather annoying state of delusion.
As usual, we have the requisite Christian punching bag. In this case, that means a family of believers who’ve invited a Sudanese refugee to live with them, but who rudely allow their children to mock him – and who despise anything even remotely connected to knowledge. Because you see, you can’t have a brain and be a Christian, you know. Russell even uses the cliché about “curiosity killing the cat” to portray this sorely-deluded, hypocritical family. Oh, how original. No, how existential! Because I’m so brilliant!
“I Heart Huckabees” actually has an interesting premise. It attacks those who pursue knowledge at the cost of relationships, portraying how that ultimately results in emptiness. Unfortunately, however, without a decent plot or credible characters – not to mention lead actors who do their jobs – it just doesn’t stand a chance. Moreover, the real message of the film is loud and clear. In this movie, while taking a dig at those who thirst for real knowledge, Russell is trying to illustrate that there is no truth – only raving lunatics who think they’ve found it. Thank you very much.
I majored in philosophy, so I know how silly all the debate can sound – especially when it neglects the reality of a living God who brings meaning to the world, individuals, relationships and everything we choose to engage in, should we choose to embrace Him. But this movie made me feel like I was watching a bunch of stoners attempting to solve the problems of the universe at three in the morning. That’s not something I really feel like doing. Do you? And that is not a coincidence.
- Drugs/Alcohol Content: Background party drinking; one scene where character smokes cigarette.
- Language/Profanity: Extreme. Film opens with a stream of 15 obscenities that include 9 f-words. The rest of the film contains at least 15 more f-words, several dozen other obscenities (many crude) and multiple profanities.
- Sexual Content/Nudity: Kissing between couples in several scenes; one reference to masturbation; very lewd shot of woman’s bikini-clad rear-end bending over; several shots of cleavage; woman places foot in man’s crotch to seduce him; woman caresses herself through clothing; characters engage in perverted sex acts.
- Violence: Man punches another; characters fight; characters shove each other’s face in mud (which then turns sexual); characters commit arson.