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Back when I Heart Huckabees came out, critics didn't know what to make of it. Some loved it, some hated it with a passion, some didn't know either way. Like a cross between a Michel Gondry/Charlie Kaufman collaboration and a Coen Brothers screwball comedy, David O. Russell's film proved too odd for most people.

I Heart Huckabees follows Jason Schwartzman's character, a depressed poet/environmentalist on a quest to discover the truth behind a bizarre coincidence. He hires the help of a couple of "existential detectives" (played to perfection by Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin) to help him figure all this out but the oddball detectives start getting maybe a bit too involved in his life. Jude Law plays Schwartzman's main antagonist, an insufferable douche who works for a company called Huckabees and who takes over his save-the-forest coalition for the sole purpose of making the company look good. Other players in this whole story include Law's airhead girlfriend (Naomi Watts), a model known as the face and voice of Huckabees, Mark Wahlberg's mouthy, disillusioned fire-fighter (one of Wahlberg's best roles to date) and a mysterious French woman played by a surprisingly game Isabelle Huppert, who may or may not be working with the detectives Schwartzman hired. Like, say, Burn After Reading, this is a goofy movie with some decidedly silly moments but which, in fact, is deceptively smart. It's actually a good thing that the film is this light-hearted and cartoonish, otherwise the philosophical themes and existential thoughts the film throws at us would have come off as completely pompous. There's a genuine attempt here to tackle a lot of big topics but the film never claims to know all the answers and never forgets to be fun.

From the corporate, artificial world of Huckabees to the naive but genuine world of those trying to make a positive difference, we're introduced to multi-faceted psychological conflicts between an ensemble of troubled characters who shouldn't be connected but are more connected than they could have ever imagined. Whether you care about the life theories the film introduces, though, it's hard to deny that, at the very least, I Heart Huckabees is a razor-sharp, funny and thought-provoking movie. Schwartzman's typical deadpan, candid schtick works really well here and Law, as relatively unconvincing as his American accent may be, does a brilliant job and brings a lot of energy and lols to a potentially dislikeable twit of a character. Behind the scenes, the project was... tense to say the least, but on-screen it comes off as bright and happy-go-lucky in its approach: definitely a good thing. Jon Brion provides a charming score which really captures both the cartoon-like humour of the film and the fragility of most of its characters. Look out for some fun cameos from the likes of Jonah Hill, Isla Fisher, Richard Jenkins and, strangely, Shania Twain.

Plus you get to hear Tippi "The Birds" Hedren say "fuck" and that's worth the price of admission alone.

Overall, it's hard to say whether you'll like I Heart Huckabees or not. The existential subject matter will either interest or alienate you. That said, you don't see a lot of Hollywood movies doing what this movie does and for that, at least, it's well worth seeing. I, for one, really enjoy Huckabees: it's a very funny, unique, well made and charming little movie which really deserves more of a cult following.

Highly recommended.

1 comment:

  1. A movie I meant to see, never got around to and subsequently forgot about. Thanks for reviewing, I'll check it out.


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