Projections - Movie Reviews

I (Heart) Huckabees
I Heart Huckabees
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Naomi Watts, Jude Law, Catherine Deneuve,
Dustin Hoffman, Jason Schwartzman, Lily Tomlin

After Three Kings, the driven director David O. Russell has put a lot of thought into I (Heart) Huckabees with some very nutty, but fairly comical results. It just doesn’t have the feeling to go along with all the nifty maneuvers of the mind, kike Kings, and the underrated Flirting With Disaster.

 The cast that includes Dustin Hoffman, Naomi Watts, the ubiquitous Jude Law, and Mark Wahlberg is up to the task to find some truths in a kind of peculiar brightened post-modern world that includes the invasion by an ersatz Wal-Mart store chain (like that has really taken over many cities over the past half-dozen years). The Everything store.

The film’s protagonist is environmentalist Albert Markovski, emoted in Everyman fashion by Jason Schwatzman, who was in Rushmore opposite Bill Murray, and has been in some mindless teen comedies to boot. At the outset, he’s like a mouse going through a maze in an office building, trying to find someone to help him solve a mystery surrounding a tall African doorman he’s been noticing too much of late.

The young man who runs the Open Spaces Coalition reaches the office of a pair of “existential detectives,” Bernard and Vivian Jaffe, acted with tart intelligence by Hoffman and Lily Tomlin. Hoffman is coiffed like the Beatles in their heyday. Albert needs to fully understands his life right now, going to the edge of the consciousness of a seemingly nice guy and poet. So, the Jaffes run a surveillance of his life in a cute, odd manner. Albert may feel he is in need of a soul searching, trying to find what value his occupation holds in relation to his very existence.

Law’s very career-minded Brad Stand is one of the newbie fast advancing sales executives of the superstores called Huckabees. Stand’s girlfriend is Naomi Watts’ extroverted Dawn, known as Miss Huckabee from the store’s marketing campaign. Dawn will have more than a couple of mood changes, and for a while looks like an “Amish bag lady.”

A lot of extended, sometimes pungent phraseology is heard and Isabelle Huppert (8 Women) is persistent as a rival, nihilistic investigator of the Jaffes. Mark Wahlberg (The Italian Job) is also very funny as Tommy, an angry firefighter who talks a lot about petroleum dependency in a post 9/11 world.

While Law’s accent occasionally surfaces, his character gets more interesting as he senses problems with Tommy getting closer to his frazzled modeling girlfriend. And Albert and Tommy are lured into the philosophizing of Caterine, as Huppert seems to enjoy Russell’s oscillations on the way to understanding the “cruel and absurd theater of human drama.” Even when her face is shoved into mud, the French actress still is quite watch-able as the importance of the tension between an ostracized Albert and popular Brad plays out.

From the costume and production designing there’s a visual grind-like foundation for “everything being the same even if it’s all different.” The direction of all involved, especially Schwartzman and Wahlberg, prove that Russell is adept at bringing originality to an interesting premise. Yet, the sum of all the engaging, impish cerebral elements of Huckabees is less than absurdity. But, maybe Russell and his perky cast (Law goes through a big emotional shift) just want you to go with the metaphysical flow of coincidence and cast interconnection.

I (Heart) Huckabees

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