Happiness

Happiness

****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

What have lust among the over-60s, masturbation, paedophilia, phone sex, addictive romanticism, a large lady and a little night porter got to do with America's obsession with happiness?

Todd Solondz's investigation into the suburban psyche is so disturbing, it's funny, although when humour slides into the realms of nightmare, laughs congeal in the throat.

The performances are sharp and clear. Solondz's script is bitingly honest. Secrets blister sensibility with the power of a blowtorch. Everyone is alone, it seems, even when they are together, and since sex has an ever greater hold on public consciousness, isolation twists it into grotesque shapes.

Those lucky enough to have seen Solondz's low budget debut, Welcome To The Dollhouse, know that he is neither a voyeur, nor a cheap sensationalist. He exposes the hypocrisy of lower-middle-class New Jersey family life by ducking under its defenses and discovering garbage in the basement. His second film is more ambitious, looking beyond the emptiness of existence and failure of hope into a rich vein of sexual abnormality. The way he presents it, there is no "ab" in "normal", only ordinary people drowning in the sewage of their private desires.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Sex in suburbia.
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Director: Todd Solondz

Writer: Todd Solondz

Starring: Jane Adams, Jon Lovitz, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Dylan Baker, Lara Flynn Boyle, Justin Elvin, Cynthia Stevenson, Lila Glantzman-Leib, Gerry Becker, Rufus Read, Ben Gazzara

Year: 1998

Runtime: 111 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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