i ♥ Huckabees

It’s happened to all of us. You just want to do something good like, say, save trees from being bulldozed so another damn mall can be erected and maybe share a few of your poems at the same time, but you get sabotaged by an unbearably charming department store executive asshole, then you get involved with existential detectives who convince you that all is connected through some kind of universal “blanket” and match you with an environmentalist firefighter, but your “other” ends up bringing you to a French writer who says it’s all meaningless and you don’t quite know what to believe. Oldest story in the world.

Seriously, the questions raised in “i ♥ huckabees” are indeed as old as time. Man has always wondered about the meaning of life. Are we drifting aimlessly or are we driven by unseen forces? You’ll often hear this kind of discussion in philosophy classes, but it’s more rare to find it in a star-studded Hollywood comedy like this. David O. Russell’s film is conceptually dense, but its dismantlement of various ideas is accessible enough. After all, you can’t accuse of pretension a movie in which “pure being” is equated to being repeatedly hit in the face with a big red rubber ball!

The ensemble cast is wonderful, starting with Jason Schwartzman as the poet fighting “suburban sprawl”. He looks really hot with the long hair and the stubble, but it’s still easy to identify with him as the underdog because as good as he might look, he’s still no match for Jude Law, who makes it impossible to hate him even if his character is a conniving bastard. The guy just has to flash his million-dollar smile and everyone forgives him everything. The hunk parade continues with Marky Mark Wahlberg in one of his liveliest roles in a long time, but the hottest hottie in the movie is undeniably Naomi Watts. As the “face” of Huckabees, Watts gets to be spunky and sexy, all smile and bright eyes, an irresistible blonde angel who’d convert even the most ardent anti-capitalist to “the everything store”.

The film also features amusing turns by Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin as the existential detectives, and Isabelle Huppert as a former student of their “blanket” philosophy who’s gone to “the other side” and decided that there’s only “chaos and cruelty”. This is so “Star Wars”; Huppert even talks of “la force” at some point!

So “i ♥ huckabees” is smart and funny, but it plays a little cold. I loved the performances and the characters, but I wasn’t actually moved by them (even though Jon Brion’s sad clown music effectively set the mood for it). Maybe it will warm up with subsequent viewings, but right now I find myself appreciating it more for its brains than for its ♥. Isn’t it Alanis?