It’s the year 2004. Oceans Twelve has proven to be disappointing, a slew of questionable Christmas films have flooded the megaplexes and Jude Law is in EVERYTHING. There’s one film however, that may have the greatest title ever invented, stars half of Hollywood (yet not a single actor is typecast or degraded) and it’s one of the smartest comedies to ever be released.
But unlike most films in The Forgotten series, it was seen by a decent amount of people. However, it was simply written off as just another weird indie comedy….that just so happens to star Jude Law
This week it’s David O Russell’s I Heart Huckabees.
Jason Schwartzman stars as Albert Markovski, a young environmentalist who’s having an existential crisis. He is being constantly bullied and manipulated by corporation big wig Brad Stand (Jude Law) and is continuously forced to question his efforts in saving the environment and “making a difference”. He goes to visit existential detectives, Vivianne (Lily Tomlin) and Bernard Joffe (Dustin Hoffman), an eccentric married couple who do everything they can to find Albert’s purpose in life. Albert however, has lied to them. At first Vivianne and Bernard follow him through his day-to-day life and spy on people he often associates with, one of which includes Brad. Of course, in meeting them, Brad enlists their help for his own “self crisis”. Things get increasingly worse for Albert and more questions surface with no answers.
Sound odd? Enter Mark Wahlberg as Tommy Corn, a fireman who believes petroleum is destroying the world. He’s enlisted the help of the detectives for quite some time and in his existential rut he is introduced to Albert. Together the pair try to find their own understanding of the world, even if it means side-stepping the detectives who are now fixated on Brad and his wife, (Naomi Watts), a model who might just be having the biggest existential crisis of them all. Quite a mess indeed. Will any of these people see some truth and come to understand their world better?
I Heart Huckabees (The ‘Huckabees’ in the film is a Kmart type franchise) is one of the funniest comedies I’ve ever seen. Why? Incredibly funny dialogue aside, there is such a deep-seeded complexity to the characters on display that the film’s humour literally seeps out of these people and the situations they’re in. These are huge questions the film and its characters are asking, regarding one’s place in the universe. However, to the film’s advantage, no intelligence is spared for comedy. The complexities of existentialism come first, the comedy following close by.
Many whom I’ve recommended this film to have brushed it off as a whole lot of strange mumbo jumbo. Is that a discredit to that person’s intelligence? Not in the slightest. I Heart Huckabees is a strange film and one not all will embrace. It borders on quirkiness at times; but swiftly avoids it due to the dense yet incredibly layered screenplay written by O’Russell.
Performances are of the highest calibre from everyone! Not a single actor in this troop hits a weak note and it only adds to the comedy. Mark Wahlberg in particular should get a special mention. Forget everything you’ve seen him in (yes, including Boogie Nights), for he is amazing in this film. You will not expect the comedic timing he has as an actor. Very few did before this film existed.
I Heart Huckabees is particularly relevant when you look at the slow decline of “funny” comedies being released each year. There’s an inclusion of studio input these days that insist on making bland, conservative and sadly, predictable comedies. If people are only fed the same comedy every few months then they’ll be conditioned to continue paying for that same phoned in experience, in the hope that a few laughs may surface. I Heart Huckabees is that odd specimen that defies this. This renegade comedy wants you to think, question the universe and also laugh more than you could ever imagine.
Smart comedies need to be revived and embraced; and if you start by watching I Heart Huckabees, we’ll be getting somewhere.
And if you’re still wondering what in the hell you just saw from nine years back (when first released), a re-watch will do yourself and your film tastes some good. Like a fine wine, it only gets better with age.
By Chris Elena