I Heart Huckabees

| October 10, 2004

Some star-studded ventures are doomed from the start–as we all know stars do not a good movie make, and it was this very truth that made me fear for the outcome of I Heart Huckabees. Written and directed by David O. Russell, the film in its most simplistic description, centers around a young man named Albert (Jason Schwartzman) who hires a couple of existential detectives to determine the meaning behind a coincidence in his life, leading him in insane and hilarious situations. While the trailer immediately charmed me, I had a feeling that the movie could turn into the usual pretentious drivel, hiding behind its celebrity as its only excuse. Any film that stars so many superb people–Dustin Hoffman, Lily Tomlin, Naomi Watts, Isabelle Huppert, Mark Wahlberg, and Jude Law–would create that sense of apprehension in me.
I’m sure I’m not the only one to have noticed Jude Law’s suddenly explosive career. It seems that he’s in every movie coming out this fall, and although I’ve always liked Law I admit that his new super stardom came as something of a surprise. While watching I Heart Huckabees I was reminded of the reasons why he has become so sought after. He’s simply incredibly charming; no matter what role Law is portraying, you love watching him. And fortunately for Huckabees, Law’s performance isn’t the only stellar one. I had previously thought that Jason Schwartzman had made the wrong choice when he chose his acting career over his music (he was the drummer for the band Phantom Planet), but I stand corrected. If he can maintain choosing roles like Max in the wonderful Rushmore and Albert in Huckabees, then more power to him. Perhaps the biggest surprise performance of all in the film is found in Mark Wahlberg, who transcends my Marky Mark predisposition to become actually… funny. And we all know by now that we can always count on Hoffman, Watts, and Tomlin to be outstanding.
Let me get to the point and say that in my opinion, this is by far one of the best films of the year–right next to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It’s films like this one that celebrate the intelligence of the audience, films that when you reach the end you’re actually thankful that you committed yourself to spending almost two hours with this story and its characters. The remarkable thing about I Heart Huckabees is its uninhibited comic chaos. Although I expected it to be witty and quick, it demands a lot more from its audience than I anticipated (which I love). The speed of delivery in the film could definitely cause displeasure in less participatory moviegoers. However, I thought it was amazing. There was hardly a scene in which I wasn’t laughing from the film’s wonderful grasp on humor, or its random shocking imagery.
If there’s one thing this film excels at above all else, it’s the perfect blend of head and heart. While its existential philosophy would be enough to merit a viewing, Huckabees takes it a step further, propelling the film into excellence by combining the logical and analytical with the emotional in a surprisingly subtle fashion. Although some people may not pick up on the heart of the film, instead only catching the brains, the feeling is definitely there. Be thankful that once in a while a film doesn’t cram emotions down your throat. With I Heart Huckabees there’s no obligatory “Oh, the character is feeling sad right now, so I guess I should too” association. That could be its strongest point–the fact that the film trusts enough in your intelligence to let you decide your own reaction.
I’ve said before that I appreciate comedy that chooses a different route from the typical, and this film is yet another stellar example. Do yourself a favor by spending your movie dollars on something intelligent yet heartfelt–go see I Heart Huckabees.

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