I ❤ Huckabees (2004)

I ❤ Huckabees is a 2004 comedy film directed by David O. Russell. It features an ensemble cast, primarily focusing on Jason Schwartzman. Schwartzman plays Albert Markovski, a man who, after a series of “coincidences” decides to hire a pair of existential detectives (Dustin Hoffman & Lily Tomlin), who end up deconstructing his life step by step, and eventually attempt to teach him their own belief system. Along the way, Albert meets another going through similar teachings (Mark Wahlberg), and the two soon become close friends.

There are quite a few subplots as well. There is another person attempting to instill her beliefs throughout the film, Albert is in constant competition with a Huckabees executive Brad Stand (Jude Law) with somewhat opposing views on how the environment should be treated. This executive and his girlfriend, Dawn (Naomi Watts), end up hiring the same detectives to help with a similar problem, and there is never a time in the film where nothing is going on. Seeing as how the plot is somewhat complex, it definitely helps to pay attention throughout the entire film.

Sure, there aren’t really any big twists or surprises you should be on the lookout for, but having as many things going on at one time as this film does, means that giving it your full attention is definitely going to better your experience with it. It’s a thinking film, sometimes making you question your own beliefs on everything that goes on in your daily life. Going into the film looking for a cheap entertainment comedy is likely going to leave you feeling disappointed.

That’s not to say that the film isn’t funny or comedic, as it most certainly is. It isn’t really all that funny until somewhere near the middle, with the introduction of Wahlberg’s character, but there are still some laughs that it’ll manage to get out of you near the beginning. As for it being an entertaining piece, it is, but only if you let it.

The main opposition of belief systems is the major theme of the film. On one hand, we have the existential detectives, who believe that everything is interconnected. To counter these beliefs, we are introduced to another character, whose belief system is more nihilistic than anything else. She attempts to teach the characters that nothing really matters and that everything you do will never have any real change in the grand scheme of things.

This isn’t a film that will let you sit back and just be along for the ride. No, it wants you to participate, to enjoy, and to think along with its characters.

The film attempts to make you question the way you view the world—but does it in a non-intrusive way. Instead of directly telling you what you need to do with the subject matter it presents, it instead slowly weaves it into your mind. You’ll likely come away from the film with more questions than answers, but that doesn’t really seem a bad thing with this movie. It allows you to ponder things and doesn’t spoon-feed you the answers. It’s actually fairly refreshing to see a comedy that has a lasting impression in your mind after you watch it.

If there is one main complaint I have about the film, it’s the fact that it isn’t all that funny off the bat. There are a couple of scenes that are somewhat funny, but the film doesn’t really get going until a fair while later. It doesn’t really draw you in that well with its humor, and instead relies almost entirely on introducing the numerous amounts of characters.

As for the characters, they manage to actually develop throughout the film. The way they view the world, and consequently, how they act, changes as they are shown the different belief systems the film toys around with. Characters continue to learn and transform as the film progresses. Even though Schwartzman’s character is the one that is focused on the most, the most interesting characters are actually the ones that get the least screen time.

In fact, the most interesting character is actually Brad’s girlfriend Dawn. Beginning the film as “the voice of Huckabees,” it becomes fairly evident that she isn’t entirely happy with being just a pretty face. She has a couple major transformations within the film, and is by far the most interesting character. However, the most entertaining character is the one played by Mark Wahlberg. He is the catalyst to what happens in the second half of the film, and actually lightens the mood of the film, by injecting the film with the comedy that it promises. He really is hilarious, and plays his role as well as I would expect.

I don’t believe that I ❤ Huckabees is for everyone. In fact, its target audience is likely not all that wide. This isn’t a film that will let you sit back and just be along for the ride. No, it wants you to participate, to enjoy, and to think along with its characters. It isn’t quite as funny as one would expect, and it gets off to a slow start, but once it picks up, it really gets going. It has interesting characters, dialogue, and themes, and is very engaging. The conflicting views that it presents allows you to question your own, while the numerous subplots and characters make it a film you really have to pay attention to.

Conclusion: I ❤ Huckabees is a thinking-person’s comedy.

Recommendation: I ❤ Huckabees is both smart and funny—you should watch it.

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