Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I Heart Huckabees

It's impossible to really approach I Heart Huckabees without bringing up the director David O. Russell. Mainly, that he's famously a bit of an ass. George Clooney punched him in the face, and videos have been leaked of him yelling at Lily Tomlin during the shooting of this movie. So, you know that, at least during shooting, he's really angry at everyone, leading to the bizarre situation of a wacky comedy made by an angry man, something that is very obvious from the first noise. Not many wacky comedies start with a stream of profanity.

The story is about Albert Markovski, played by Jason Schwartzman, and his curiosity about a series of coincidences based around a tall African, played by Ger Duany. He's also an environmental activist, who is trying to shave a marsh through poetry. He's also really angry at Brad Stand, played by Jude Law. So, he goes to existential detectives played by Lily Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman, and Naomi Watts, Marky Mark and Caterine Vauban are also involved in the really complicated web of a story that is pretty much why I try to leave these synopsizes to one paragraph that's not very detailed.

So the movie contains a lot of weird, philosophical humor, as the plot swims around connecting everyone in a bizarre ways and piling on silly coincidences that are supposed to connect in a vague, inexplicable way. Also, everyone yells a lot, as though they're angry at the universe, themselves, and their director. I'm not sure if it's a great idea or not, but it's undeniably part of the movie.

The thing I don't like about this is how utterly precious it is, even with the anger running beneath the surface. The existential detectives sneak around and stalk our heroes in a very cute way. There are adorably half-assed video effects, characters clobber each other with balloons, and it's got an utterly adorable Jon Brion score. It's got this quirky cute thing that lots of really bad indie films try to pass off as character.

Also like lots of other really bad indie films, it is in love with its dialog, pouring out reams of messages, existential quandaries and attempts at being clever per minute. I couldn't help but think it was the end result of someone taking a class and it totally changing their life, man.

From the above, you might think it's a really bad indie film. You would be mostly right, in fact, perhaps I'm beyond having my mind blown by totally awesome philosophy. I took a course on it too, and it didn't save my life, so I'm totally not part of the target audience. I'm also not a huge fan of people shouting at each other - one day we'll get a Ken Loach movie, and I will get into this further - so there are a lot of moments that leave me cold.

Still, even if this isn't for me, it has some good moments. Jude Law is a master of his own face, and the scene where he realizes that he says the same Shania Twain story at every opportunity and becomes ashamed is a fantastic piece of acting. Like most indie quirk, it will often stumble onto genuinely funny and interesting moments. Curiously, the best moments are when people shut up and are just doing stuff, like when Marky Mark and Schwartzman hit each other with a big balloon.

I am not quite the target market here, but I can recognize who the film belongs to. College students with bad hair, a love of philosophy and affection for misusing the word irony, this is your film. It will make you feel smart, it will make you laugh, and appeal to your propensity towards quirkiness. When you outgrow quirk and are less fascinated by philosophy, it will leave you cold, like it did me.


  1. Yeah I saw this film and I wasn't even 1/100th as impressed with the film as it was with itself.

    I think I am perhaps not cut out for indie films, because they almost always try to make a joke out of being awkward. I can understand being awkward, but jokes often require more work than that, otherwise you've got "funny" like "Meet The Spartans" is "funny".

    Basically, if someone approached the idea of watching "I Heart Huckabees" as "here's a pretty good waste of time", I'd at least be able to add "And it had a couple of clever moments!", but unfortunately everyone has tried to pass it off as an "intellectual comedy" and that is the point where the film fails.

  2. The funny thing is that the best moments all had little dialog, so if it wasn't quite so in love with itself and let itself stop talking it might have actually been pretty good.

  3. Yeah interestingly enough I don't remember most of the dialog-less *moments*, so maybe there are some subtle things in this film that I missed the first time around. I can definitely remember him boning the French atheist because it was possibly the least hot sex scene in any movie.

  4. The worst sex scene award actually goes to Friday's entry, though I don't actually get into it. Very much a sex scene nobody had to see.