A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 501 – I Heart Huckabees

I Heart Huckabees – July 14th, 2011

As with many movies in our collection, this was bought somewhat blindly, I believe. Andy purchased it some time back and he hadn’t seen it and didn’t watch it after he bought it and that, as they say, was that. It sat in our living room and we never picked it up. I vaguely recalled seeing ads for it when it came out, but whenever I looked at the cover I couldn’t think of what it was about. I mentally filed it in with things like Garden State and The Men Who Stare At Goats and everything Wes Anderson has ever made. Quirky pseudo-comedies that try to touch on more meaningful topics, featuring quirky characters with messed up lives. Largely realistic with maybe a touch of magical realism. And I’d have to say I think I was fairly spot on. I had no idea what the specifics were, but as Andy and I agreed, this is about an inch away from being a Wes Anderson movie. All it’s missing are the yellow titles and a few dioramas.

Since I happen to like Wes Anderson’s style, I was definitely in luck here. I found myself laughing through the vast majority of this movie, particularly when it seemed to be making fun of itself and everything in it. It’s thoroughly ridiculous for the most part, with the main character, Albert, going to a pair of “existential detectives” to help him out. He’s got a coincidence he’d like investigated: Three times he’s encountered the same man he’s never really met and doesn’t know, all in unexpected places. He thinks it must mean something and when he finds a card for the Jaffes’ detective agency he heads off to see them. But of course since we’re talking about an existential investigation, nothing is insignificant and they dig a lot deeper than he expected them to. The coincidence only means something, after all, if it’s put in the context of his whole life. And oh, his whole life is a mess.

That’s really the point, though, because what fun would it be to have an existential investigation through someone’s life if the life in question was fine as it was? So the Jaffes have plenty to work with as they follow him around and plant microphones in his office and in the office of his nemesis, Brad, and bug his phone and follow his coworkers. There are a lot of characters in this movie and to be honest the idea of going over the plot and the characters and describing how everyone is connected is kind of stumping me. Which, I think, is intentional. The whole concept here is that everyone’s connected and everything’s connected and it matters and doesn’t matter at the same time so who cares who the Sudanese guy Albert keeps seeing is and who cares if Brad maneuvered Albert out of his environmental group and what does it matter if Tom and Albert stop seeing the Jaffes and start listening to a former pupil of theirs, Caterine?

If I tried to describe the entire plot I would get bogged down in details. It’s an ensemble cast full of people with problems and their problems run into each other until they’re one big mess of people screaming at each other and hitting each other in the face with a bouncy ball and talking about infinity together. Which makes this movie sound a lot louder and messier than it is, for the most part. The ending is as messy and loud as it sounds, but the rest of the movie is small scenes that take a couple of characters, show their interactions, then show how their interactions affect other interactions. The thing is, none of these characters are particularly great people. They’re all whiny and self-absorbed and obsessed with problems that are huge and important but made petty by the behaviour of the people obsessed with them. Really, only Dawn, Brad’s girlfriend who is also the spokesmodel for Huckabees, a sort of Walmart/Target stand-in, comes off as sympathetic to me. Well, her and the Jaffes. I like both of them.

But the point here is that it’s all ridiculous. That these people need to take a step back and think and put everything in proper perspective. And that they can’t seem to do it without a whole lot of drama is played for laughs. Which works for me. Especially when it comes to Albert and his “other”, Tom, smacking each other in the face with a huge ball in order to try and bring about a feeling of peace. That’s totally the way to go! It’s just all so over the top and while I can see it grating on some people, I found it amusing and enjoyable.

Now, don’t let the whole existentialism thing fool you. There are moments in this movie where it seems something a little more meaningful is going on and characters make breakthroughs that explain why they’re unhappy. But in the long run really it’s all just pop philosophy. It’s not the existentialism or the problems that make this movie entertaining for me. It’s the performances. Jason Schwartzman, Mark Wahlberg, Naomi Watts, Jude Law, Lily Tomlin, Isabelle Huppert and Dustin Hoffman all give wonderful performances, though I think Jude Law and Lily Tomlin were my favorites, with Naomi Watts close behind. The performances make the movie fun and the cast works well together, taking this bizarre concept and running with it. Other than that, I’m at a loss for how to describe this movie. It’s a strange piece of cinema with a great cast. I’m not entirely sure of the script’s intentions but since the movie entertained me I can’t really complain. But I also can’t really say anything else.

July 14, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , ,

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