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Film Comment Essay

“Just too many ideas. I wanted all these characters, they all meant something to me, but I wanted them to weave together in some way; I wanted it to feel unified in the investigation” (Russell qtd. in Smith 4). These are the words of David O. Russell, writer-director of the movie I Heart Huckabees, when asked by Film Comment editor Gavin Smith about the most difficult dilemma in the film. From this reply, he was very much aware of the limitations of his movie, and is honest about it. The movie is not your usual movie-date fare. Yes, it is a comedy.

Yes, it does have an all-star cast. However, this comedy is an existential one, a film that tries to discuss the profound questions of existence with humor. The movie’s protagonist is Albert (Jason Schwartzman), who seeks the help of “existential investigators” Vivian and Bernard Jaffe (portrayed by Lily Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman) when he is disturbed by repetitive, coincidental encounters with a Sudanese orphan. The couple starts to work on Albert; Vivian delves into his everyday activities, while Bernard tries to help him understand the interconnectivity of things.

Then there is Tommy (Mark Wahlberg), the “other” to Schwartzman’s Albert. Meanwhile, the Jaffes find a predicament in Caterine Vaubert (Isabelle Huppert), who uses her charms to brainwash Albert and Tommy with her nihilistic ideals. The movie should be praised for having a profound and serious theme successfully conveyed in such a humorous light. Nonetheless, this is the very reason that hinders the movie to exert much influence on its viewers. It is too preoccupied with being existentialist that the characters seemed to be two-dimensional for its audience.

The film is too caught up with its philosophical leanings that the characters alienates them moviegoers, even if Russell did draw inspiration from people in real life. When asked about Brad, one of the characters, Russell replied, “…your good intentions are staying in there, but you’re really compromising away half of them” (Russell qtd. in Smith 5). Too bad that also applies to the entire movie. Works Cited Smith, Gavin. “Hearts and Minds. ” Film Comment Sept. -Oct. 2004:1-5.


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