i heart huckabees [Retro Review]

“Have you ever transcended space and time?”

The Scoop: 2004 R, directed by David O. Russell and starring Jason Schwartzman, Dustin Hoffman, and Lily Tomlin

Tagline: An existential comedy.

Summary Capsule: One coincidence takes an environmentalist on a search for the meaning of life, dragging people around him down that path with him while being stalked by detectives and his face is falling apart, too.

Nancy’s Rating: Tiny hearts rule.

Nancy’s Review: Did you know that I put tiny hearts before everything? It’s true. Nancy hearts taco day. Nancy hearts New Jersey. Nancy hearts drinking darjeeling tea and listening to The Strokes on a Monday night where her plans to see Chronicles Of Narnia were cancelled because of sleet.

If L.A. Story taught me anything, it’s that everything has a reason. And, due to the cancellation Of Narnia, I finally got around to watching I Heart Huckabees!

That’s a lie. I watched it a few days ago. But I’m finally writing a review, and that’s worth something, is it not?

Yeaah, fate!

I Heart Huckabees deals with fate too, just as it deals with a whole slew of existential concepts. I’ve tried explaining the basic plot and theory of existentialism to my friends in order to coax them into watching this film with me. But starting off a philosophical discussion with “Picture Dustin Hoffman holding a blanket…” doesn’t give much validity to your following statements.

My film teacher never believed I Heart Huckabees was an existential film. I was taught in that class that existentialism was rooted in purposelessness and the search for meaning within a great vapor of existence. This film told me something completely different, and who am I to believe? Well, I find myself believing the film with the catchy music, the poetry and the Jason Schwartzman. Whatever. I Heart Huckabees is pretty colored, and Mr. Smith is not.

This film starts with Anthony (Schwartzman), a environmental activist who is in the process of combining his charter with the department store Huckabees, hoping that working together they can preserve more land. He meets Brad Stand (Jude Law), Huckabees kingpin, and makes the deal. But that’s not really what it’s about. Anthony keeps running into a tall African man, in three separate spots in completely separate random occasions (still not really what it‘s about). What is the explanation for this coincidence? That question drives Anthony to Vivian (Lily Tomlin) and Bernard (Hoffman), two existential detectives bent on explaining the root of existence to Anthony, questioning his reality, explaining his coincidence, unearthing universal truths, and showing the magic of the universe being the same, even though everything is different. That’s kiiinda what it’s about.

Through the detectives, Anthony meets Tommy (Mark Wahlberg, rocking this role way better than I usually expect from Marky Mark) , a firefighter who has already experience Bernard and Vivian and is facing a new reality, a reality where we are not all the same, where only 5% of the cosmos is constructed of the same atoms as human beings, where the world is this meaningless vessel not worth fighting for. This reality is spawned from Catherine Vaubun (Isabella Hupert) , who is an existentialist author from da otha side o’ da tracks who finds Anthony and speaks to him as well, altering his perception of the universe. Meanwhile, Brad is signing up with the existential detectives, dragging his girlfriend Dawn (Naomi Watts) down as well. (Dawn is also the beautiful Huckabees spokes girl). But are Brad’s intentions sincere? Will Dawn succumb to the theory and lifestyle of the detectives are putting on Brad? Is she still pretty with a bonnet? What does inflicting pain upon yourself make you realize about the universe? Why Jessica Lange? What is the meaning of Jessica Lange?

So where are we at? What’s it about? What is it allll about?

It can best be described as four people’s random adventures while they search for purpose in life. Some make it, some don’t. It’s also the story of the teachers, and their discoveries in the world as well. To make it easier on everyone, it’s about a Sudanese refugee, that a man named Anthony keeps running into, and he needs, not just wants, but needs to know why.

Existentialism is defined in two ways by this film. One way is that we are all connected, we are all one, we can’t get wrapped up in the daily mess of life because it doesn’t matter. You can’t be angry at Sandy because you are Sandy. It’s seeing the blanket truth — we’re all the same even though we’re different.

But then there’s the other side of the coin. That the world is evaporating and it always will be, there is nothing you can do but share in the sorrow.

It’s about commercialism, beauty, importance, bonnets, happiness, love, the pursuit thereof, bonnets, patriotism, and life.

And it’s funny. It’s really funny.

So this grabbed me right away. There were some parts that were so right to me, I screamed out loud to my dog “THIS IS SPECTACULAR!! MERLIN ARE YOU LISTENING TO THIS??!?”. Some parts went over my head. And I’m still really lost on the meaning of life. Which is exactly what this film was going for, to make me question and to make me even more lost.

What’s nice is that I’m more mixed-up on how I perceive reality now, true, but now I know I perceive it with colors, with cool songs and with bicycles.

Mahvelous.

Intermission!

  • Vivian talking on an upside down phone!
  • Tommy’s beard is different throughout the whole movie.
  • Brad’s shirt is wet before it’s supposed to beee! Haha!
  • Bernard’s watch doesn’t have any hands or numbers!
  • The protagonist was loosely based on the director, David O. Russell, and the character of Bernard was almost directly based on his mentor, Uma Thurmans Dad (Robert Thurman). Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin ALMOST were Popeye and Olive Oil
  • Britney Spears auditioned for the role of Dawn, not once, not thrice, but twice.

Groovy Quotes

    Brad: How am I not myself?
    Albert: No, I’m not. I’m talking about not covering every square inch with houses and strip malls until you can’t remember what happens when you stand in a meadow at dusk.
    Bret: What happens in the meadow at dusk?
    Albert : Everything.
    Mrs. Hooten: Nothing.
    Albert : Everything.
    Mrs. Hooten : Nothing.
    Albert : It’s beautiful.
    Tommy : It’s beautiful.
     

    Dawn: Wake up, pretty girl, the joke is on you!

    Vivian : Have you ever transcended space and time?
    Albert: Yes. No. Uh, time, not space… No, I don’t know what you’re talking about.

    Tommy: Awesome! Can we do the ball thing everyday?
    Caterine: Don’t call it the ball thing. Call it pure being.
    Tommy: Okay… so can we do the pure being ball thing everyday?

    Dawn: I’m in my tree talking to the Dixie Chicks and they’re making me feel better.

    Caterine Vauban: It is inevitable to be drawn back into human drama.

    Tommy: It’s amazing!
    Albert: I know.
    Tommy: But it’s also nothing special.

    Tommy : How come we only ask ourselves the really big questions when something bad happens?

    Mr. Hooten: What happened to the cat, Albert?
    Albert: How’d you know about my cat?
    Mr. Hooten: Curiosity killed it.
    Albert: Oh, that cat.

    Bernard: There’s no such thing as nothing.

    Bernard: When you get the blanket thing you can relax because everything you could ever want or be you already have and are.

    Bernard: Everything is the same, even if it’s different.

    Bernard: There is no remainder in the mathematics of infinity.

    Bernard: The universe is an infinite sphere whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • Rushmore
  • Slackers
  • The Graduate
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