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USA 2004
Directed by
David O. Russell
106 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

I Heart Huckabees

Synopsis: Four people, an environmental activist, Albert (Jason Schwartzman); a fireman, Tommy (Mark Wahlberg); a TV commercial model, Dawn (Naomi Watts); and a corporate hot-shot, Brad (Jude Law) get involved with "Existential Detectives" Vivian and Bernard Jaffe (Lily Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman), and their rival, author Caterine Vauban (Isabelle Huppert).

For anyone who remembers Max Fischer (played by Jason Schwartzman) from Wes Anderson's 1998 comedy Rushmore, David O. Russell's latest film will be like its "Whatever Happened to Max Fischer?" sequel. Here's the news. Max is now an adult but still obtusely eccentric, has changed his name to Albert and become an eco-warrior. Which is roundabout way of saying that Russell is here having a shot at Anderson-style cinematic serendipity. The result is quite diverting and, in places, droll, as it swings back and forth between the yin and yang of life's apparent meaningfulness and meaninglessness in what looks and feels like a surreal 1960s sitcom.

Whilst Russell, who wrote this with Jeff Baena, is to be praised for turning in a film that is more inventive than most, it takes a while for the film to get over a sense of a scattergun approach and for the character dynamics to emerge. Probably because the script is dialogue-heavy and thus probably difficult for the cast to get right we get a lot of single character close-ups and continuous cutting between each character as they say their lines and Russell jumps from one scene to another. This makes for quite tiring viewing particularly when the wordy dialogue is making demands of its own.

Aside from Russell's credentials as an indie director, the top-notch cast will be the major drawcard here. Dustin Hoffman, doing his best Bernard since his Bernard La Plante of Accidental Hero, and Mark Wahlberg stand out but Lily Tomlin, Jude Law, Naomi Watts, not to mention Jason Schwartzman all join in the romp, although Tomlin's make-up at times appears to have been done by an embalmer. Whilst no-one can grumble about any film with Isabelle Huppert, why she agreed to her mud-and-sex scene defies comprehension. It is, as they say, not a good look. The film saw Jonah Hill's inauspicious debut whilst Schwartzmann's mother Talia Shire appears as his on screen mother and Richard Jenkins appears uncredited

Some people will love I Heart Huckabees, some will hate it and most are likely to be at least bemused.




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