Wednesday, July 26, 2006

I Don't Heart Huckabees

by Jackrabbit Slim

I Netflixed I Heart Huckabees the other night, and it's been a long time since I had such a negative response to a movie. I mean, I've seen worse films, but this one got under my skin and festered. The reason I rented it is that I've been watching a lot of Naomi Watts films lately. A while back Brian mentioned that he was working on a theory that Emily Watson was the best actress in film today--I don't disagree, but I think she has competition from Watts, and I wanted to back myself up by seeing some films of hers I've missed.

Anyway, I got to this film, and I'm left wondering--how did it get made? Does David O. Russell have that much clout that he could have pitched this to Focus and they nod their heads like Bobblehead dolls, and say, "Let's do it!" For the uninitiated, the film is about "existential detectives," who solve people's existential crises. It's full of blather about reality and connection and the universe. I wouldn't be surprised if Russell wrote the script when he was in college while on an all-nighter, full of benzadrine and cocaine.

I would have read this script and thrown it in the garbage, but someone ponied up dough for it. And got a great cast--Dustin Hoffman, Lily Tomlin, Jude Law, Isabelle Huppert, and, of course Watts. (It also stars Jason Schwartzman and Mark Wahlberg, but they are not draws, in my book). There are several moments when I wanted to just give up on the whole thing, perhaps the nadir was when Schwartzman and Huppert wallow in a puddle, smearing mud on each other before rutting.

Of Russell's other films, I have seen Three Kings, Flirting With Disaster, and Spanking the Monkey, which I all liked but did not love. I'll be very careful about seeing his next film.


Blogger jaydro said...

I liked what Roger Ebert said in his review (after having having seen it twice, just to be sure):

This may be the first movie that can exist without an audience between the projector and the screen.

I'm not sure my reaction was as negative as yours, Jackrabbit--I was just baffled. I keep meaning to watch it again just to be sure (like Ebert), but I somehow don't get around to it.

But it had a great marketing campaign. The trailer, the posters, the website, the banner ad on a certain movie website I no longer visit.... All top-notch, and somehow more memorable than the film itself.

I had a mezzo-mezzo reaction to Three Kings, but I've been meaning to watch it again, thinking that world events since it came out may make me appreciate it more. (I remember Kings as being a part of a mini-trend at that time in which films concentrate their best special effects into fantasy sequences. The other example being Fight Club.)

7/26/2006 10:05:00 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

Naomi Watts is also very good, of course. I'd still go with Watson, though, because her acting feels more natural and less technical, if that makes sense. Maybe it's just a difference in style.

I haven't seen Huckabee's since it came out, but I remember thinking it was pretty good, in an amusing, Coen brothers kind of way. At one point I was planning to buy a copy, though I never did. Perhaps that says something. I don't remember it really paying off, I guess, as if it was less than the sum of its parts.

"Rutting"? That's pretty funny.

7/26/2006 10:08:00 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

I loved Huckabees, it is my favorite Russel film and I have liked them all.

I thought it was extremely funny, stirkingly original, and it mined the vein of satirical faux-intelligence better than any movie I can think of. It had a lot of fun with ridiculous psychology and pointed out that it is more important to look inside yourself and see what works for you then to blindly follow some philosophy that is written in a book. That's a pretty good message to get from a movie, I think.

Mark Wahlberg was awesome in it, I've never liked him much till I saw Huckabees (he was too stiff in Boogie Nights *rimshot*). Naomi Watts was quite funny, Jude Law needs to work on his american accent but I still found his performance fascinating, and Jason Schartzman was pretty good (finally something that comes close to how great he was in Rushmore). Tomlin and Hoffman's existential detectives are one of my all-time favorite screen duos.

I think you need to watch it again and not take it so seriously. It's a really fun trip if you approach it the right way. This is a movie that machine-gun sprays ideas and dialogue at you, so it does take a repeat viewing or two to dig in.

7/26/2006 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger jaydro said...

I didn't think I was taking it that seriously when watching it. I thought the idea of existential detectives was funny. I was totally into it when Schwartzman exclaimed, "You rock, rock!" But it seriously lost me somewhere after that early scene.

7/26/2006 11:25:00 AM  
Blogger Count Olaf said...

I took it as a farce and enjoyed it. There were times I deinitely laughed out loud....

7/26/2006 12:46:00 PM  

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