I Heart Huckabees

I Heart Huckabees


Reviewed by: Paul Griffiths

Three Kings helmer David O Russell's returns with a film that defies standard definitions because it's unlike most other films. A comedic piece, it has some laugh-out-loud moments and even points of pure farce, but it also has a serious searching centre and a touching warmth.

Albert Markovski (Jason Schwartzman) is a committed environmentalist, battling against the developments of the Huckabees Corporation with his Open Spaces Coalition and angsty poetry. With self-doubt and confusion setting in, he asks whether fighting for wild marshes is his purpose in life, or should he just start over again. Is it all hopeless, and if not, what is the real point of the lives we're leading?

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Convinced that a spate of recent coincidences with a doorman holds the answers, Albert hires Existential Detectives Bernard (Dustin Hoffman) and Vivian Jaffe (Lily Tomlin) to probe further. They take his case and set about unravelling the metaphysical mysteries of Albert's being. Soon their spiralling investigations bring in blunt but sympathetic fireman Tommy Corn (Mark Wahlberg), Albert's nemesis and Huckabees executive Brad Stand (Jude Law) and the attentions of the arch rival philosopher, Catrine (Isabelle Huppert).

This might sound a little sprawling, but Russell and Jeff Baena's script is fast-paced and intelligent enough to keep things coherent. There's genuine humour in the characters' various relationships and deft injections of jokes and slapstick to balance some rapid discourses on Eastern and Western philosophical thought. Russell also employs some inventive visual trickery, from animating Albert's dreams to visualising the interconnectivity of the universe, which only adds to the meaningful fun.

Just as one feel's we may be losing steam with Albert, Russell switches attention to the scheming Brad as he also hires the detectives and the events continue apace. The cast flesh out their caricature characters with enough energy and human frailty to keep them engaging,whilst blazing through some heady dialogue. Schwartzman's verbal dexterity and facial subtlety portray Albert's earnestness with a mature performance that is reminiscent of Rushmore.

Hoffman and Tomlin play the husband and wife PIs with the verve and timing of seasoned comedy players. Jude's superficial exec is dedicated enough, but Wahlberg's post 9/11 fireman is a revelation, proving he's got a real funny bone, as well as punchy fists, and his scenes with Schwartzman glint throughout.

A choice example is when they're invited to dinner in an "average" household. The polite conversation soon descends into a hilarious clash of philosophical ideologies and more traditional American values. The scene is one of Russell's most poignant comment on the divisive struggle that America seems to be having with itself in understanding its place and direction at the moment - indeed, Albert, Tommy and Brad can readily be seen as different strands of one American character looking for answers to some basic questions. But it's still fun.

This is as inventive and left field as Being John Malkovich, but with broader smiles and bigger issues. The piece might not be to everyone's tastes, but if you hang on it's a thoroughly enjoyable film that dips much deeper into our lives than most other comedies.

Reviewed on: 13 Nov 2004
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I Heart Huckabees packshot
A man hires a pair of existential detectives.
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Director: David O Russell

Writer: David O Russell, Jeff Baena

Starring: Jason Schwartzman, Jude Law, Isabelle Huppert, Mark Wahlberg, Dustin Hoffman, Lily Tomlin, Naomi Watts

Year: 2004

Runtime: 106 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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