I ♥ Huckabees (2004)

ihearthuckabees5Very crafty of the little gray rabbit, or something to that effect. With films these days you have only black and white, heads or tails, films that are just dumb, and films that are thought provoking, hardly ever in a blue moon are we given a film that looks like entertainment but is really thought provoking brain candy. But David O. Russell is the crafty madman behind “I ♥ Huckabees”, a film that examines existentialism through a company conglomerate of department stores that are just a microcosm for life and the big picture. We never really see many Huckabees stores here, but that’s because the Huckabees presence is only that, a presence which serves as a link to connect all the characters here in this story. It’s the Nucleus for the story that serves as a source to connect the characters in an uneasy situation whether they like it or not.

Each character is very skeptical at the declaration by the philosophizers that there is one thing that connects everyone everywhere and they’re never really aware that that one thing is this mindless corporation seeking to exploit them. I went nuts for this because it’s camouflaged as an ensemble episodic comedy when it’s really, deep down to its center about existentialism. People turned off by the outright analyses in the excellent “Waking Life” will get much more of the same with this, but they won’t realize it, which is what O. Russell really manages to succeed in. Though I naturally prefer the unflinching thought provoking dialogue of Linklater, this is a great sort of brain candy for the numb skulled audiences just looking for a good time. It’s comedy with something a lot deeper in its subtext. I loved the dialogue in spite of the confusing sometimes jarring delivery that really worked when glossed over again. In it’s way, “I ♥ Huckabees” demands the attention of its audience with the rapid fire existential observations.

I flipped over the philosophical existential monologue s by many of the characters here including Wahlberg who seems to be having fun, and most of the time my head was spinning. The film focuses greatly on the aspect of questioning life and the little foibles behind it such as crashing in to someone more than once being coincidence or fate, and if mistakes really are just mistakes. The film, much like the script and notion on existentialism, is chaotic as everyone is going somewhere here. If you’re looking for a plot, go elsewhere because the film is heavily based on randomness in its premise and in its comedy. Stars jump in and out from the scenery, from people like Talia Shire, Isla Fisher, to Tippi Hedren et al, and our all-star cast really packs a punch with the talent. Including Lily Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman who play the existential police, a husband and wife team who follow their clients everywhere to discover where their coincidences and fate may begin and end.

Hoffman with his bowl-shaped coif is hilarious here and pulls off the eccentricity without fail. Often times it seems O. Russell is attempting to adopt the sentiment of Charlie Kaufman with the film often becoming very chaotic with dream sequences too goofy to be considered weird or surreal. The film is so obsessed with trying to make sense, it ends up making none whatsoever most times and in tried efforts to look like “Being John Malkovich” really just seems weak in its way. The surrealism is not accomplished many times while the dream sequences become cringe inducing including one particular involving breast feeding that really just sparked a groan more than a laugh from me. There are also some great performances by Naomi Watts, Jason Schwartzman, and especially from Jude Law who is great here as a pompous business executive who discovers his sweet life may not be as sweet as thought, and Mark Wahlberg who is surprisingly great here.

I’ve never been a fan of Wahlberg’s because he’s mostly wooden and can never seem to find a niche within his personality to set himself apart from everyone else, but he does so here with flying colors as a firefighter whose embraced the existential lifestyle and prefers to answer every question with a question and is somewhat militant on that fact. He’s like a new age Dennis Hopper from “Apocalypse Now”, preaching the gospel, and following along with his spiky hair and wide-eyed expression. In the end, O. Russell succeeds in creating another frenetic, chaotic, and utterly original piece of filmmaking that I enjoyed from beginning to end. Though sometimes “Huckabees” doesn’t make a lot of sense, and it’s often too goofy to be deemed comedic, O. Russell directs an excellent cast in a thought provoking existential comedy that is very funny and very well acted.