Nov 7, 2004

I Heart Huckabees

Written and Directed by David O. Russell Starring Jude Law (Brad Stand), Naomi Watts (Dawn Campbell), Jason Schwartzman (Albert Markovski), Mark Wahlberg (Tommy Corn), Dustin Hoffman (Bernard Jaffe), Lilly Tomlin (Vivian Jaffe) and Isabelle Huppert (Caterine Vauban)

I don’t proclaim to know exactly what the heck existentialism is all about and I certainly don’t understand it any better after watching I (Heart) Huckabees, but it sure was a fun trip for 106 minutes.

This is a story about the passionate conservationist Albert Markovski who seeks out two existentialist detectives to help him solve some recent coincidences in his life involving a tall Sudanese man. Aside from three seemingly random instances of meeting this African, Albert is struggling to remain in charge of The Open Space Coalition while his nemesis-Brad Stand (the smarmy near-corporate marketing executive of the department store Huckabees that strangely reminds me of Target) infiltrates his coalition with promises of Shania Twain being a spokesperson for the cause while benefiting the launch of another Huckabees marketing incentive.

Albert gives permission to the existential detectives Bernard and Vivian Jaffe to allow them to follow him around everywhere except where he works. And, of course, that’s precisely the first place they begin. Vivian and Bernard are quite the odd couple. Dustin Hoffman’s mop top was distracting only because I knew he wasn’t wearing a wig and Lilly Tomlin’s trim figure dumpster diving for information was a bit unsettling, but they both did a wonderful job as the quirky detectives.

The addition of the mysterious French radical detective Caterine Vauban eventually moves the plot along, but overall I found her character too annoying and far too wizened-looking for poor lost Albert to be smitten. Eventually the detectives decide to introduce Albert to a support system known as his “other” Tommy Corn is a firefighter whose own issues with the petroleum industry lead him to also be a client of the Jaffee detective agency.Tommy is by far the most likeable and amusing character in the story. You would think there would be a lot of passion to the character of Albert since he’s an environmental activist, but it’s really Tommy who is soaked in passion and steals the show. For example, he’s a firefighter who rides his bike to fires and takes great delight in skirting through traffic jams while his fellow firefighting brothers can only honk the horn of their gas-guzzling machine while stuck in traffic.

The movie drifts off center once Tommy and Albert meet. Between them, they try to discover the meaning of their existence without the much needed help of the Jaffee detectives. Albert delights in tracking down the tall mysterious Sudanese man only to discover that he still doesn’t understand the coincidence of meeting him in the first place.

Caterine introduces her own tactics in opposition of the Jaffe method, but in the end we only discover that each of the characters come to their own realization about what their life is all about. Brad and his spokesmodel girlfriend Dawn are shallow products of the corporate monster they represent and only one of them realizes it too late. Albert and Tommy eventually find their way back to what they were looking for in the first place.

Along the way they both seem to discover that although life is hard, harsh and random – it’s still ok to numb your inner pain by smashing a big rubber blow-up ball on your face as hard as you can. Yes folks, it’s just another form of self-medication but with an existential twist.

My companion and I walked out of the movie uncomfortably silent until I said something about it being an amazingly quirky movie. I really loved it. She just wanted to know what the hell it was all about! But in asking that, I think she unwittingly answered her own question and summed up the whole point of I (Heart) Huckabees.

Side note: I’m a huge fan of Mark Wahlberg so I was desperate to see this movie. I had to wait a few weeks while the movie was in limited release for it to come to my town, but I can say how happy I was to be able to see it on the big screen rather than waiting for it to eventually hit release via DVD. Any fan of Mark Wahlberg will be delighted to see his knack for comedy in his performance as the tortured Tommy Corn, but surely will be appalled at how poorly he can grow a beard. Even though his facial hair was scattered across his cheek in alarmingly sparse patches, the fact that he could ride a bike wearing fireman near-hip boots more than made up for it.Additionally you should check out Tommy Corn’s BLOG that I came across while waiting for the movie trailer to be released. http://tommycorn.blogspot.com/I was sliding my mouse over an image of Mark Wahlberg on the official site and found this hidden link. This idea of creating a BLOG for a character from a movie is an ingenious marketing ploy, but wait – there’s more! I also found that the existential detectives have their own company website: http://www.jaffeandjaffe.com/It’s pretty well done with topics such as About, Methodology, Questionnaire & Case Studies. I took the Questionnaire and was deemed a Solitary Casanova…who needed their help. I wonder how these two questions played into my results?Do you hate anyone?(a) No(b) Yes(c) Hate is too strong a word(d) Hate is not a strong enough wordHow do you feel about hamburgers?(a) I love them(b) I despise them(c) I’m indifferent towards them(d) Meat is murder

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