..

I HEART HUCKABEES
Special Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Isabelle Huppert, Jude Law, Jason Schwartzman, Lily Tomlin, Mark Wahlberg, Naomi Watts
Director: David O. Russell
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1, Full Screen 1.33:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 106 Minutes
Release Date: February 22, 2005

"There's glass between us. You can't deal with my infinite nature, can you?"

"That is so not true. Wait, what does that even mean?"

Film ***1/2

Here is a film that some people will get and be enthralled by, while others will be turned off by it within the first few seconds. I Heart Huckabees a bold and original offbeat comedy that taps into realms that aren't normally explored in comedies, or any movie for that matter. Writer/director David O. Russell, who helmed the brilliant and underrated Three Kings, has created a piece that is very unique in a strange sort of way.

Featuring a spectacular all star cast, the film is a multi character study focusing on a group of characters who don't feel completely connected, but are about to discover that in fact they, as well as every source of energy in life is connected. The underlying philosophy in I Heart Huckabees is the basic element that will try the patience of those looking for something more mainstream. The screenplay by Russell and Jeff Baena is so out there, it's a wonder that it didn't come from the mind of Charlie Kaufman.

The story opens with frustrated activist Albert Markovski (Jason Schwartzman), who after a string of bizarrely coincidental encounters with a complete stranger, consults a pair of "existential detectives". The sleuths are actually a husband and wife team, Vivian and Bernard Jaffe (Lily Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman). Albert, as a result from the coincidences, is searching for a possible connection of everything in life, which the detectives happen to be experts in revealing.

"How am I not myself?"

In order to help Albert, they will have to probe his every move, be it at home or work. His work life is a total mess at the moment. He is head of an environmental activist coalition called Open Spaces, which protests corporations from tearing down long lasting property by corporations. Corporations like Huckabees Department Store, who agrees to underwrite Albert's latest cause, only to betray him down the road.

This makes him bitter enemies with arrogant Huckabees executive Brad Stand (Jude Law). Brad is the epitome of a corporate sellout, whose only purpose in life, other than money, is to get as many colleagues as possible to be amused by a past incident where he pulled a fast one on country singer/Huckabees endorser Shania Twain. Brad also happens to be involved with Dawn Campbell (Naomi Watts), the Huckabees model/spokesperson, who is on the verge of a mental breakdown.

As the detectives consistently follow Albert around, some unexpected occurrences happen. He crosses paths with Tommy Corn (Mark Wahlberg) an extremely paranoid fireman who's so conscious of wasting energy, that he rides a bike to a fire rather than a fire truck. Tommy is a fellow client of the detectives, but happens to be indulged in a book he's reading that claims what Vivian and Bernard are trying to prove to be false.

"How am I not myself?"

As the bond between them grows stronger, Tommy and Albert are lured by rival detective, and author, Caterine Vauban (Isabelle Huppert). She wrote the book Tommy has been reading, and according to her beliefs, nothing in life is connected, where as Vivian and Bernard are trying to prove that everything exists in an infinite canvas. She teaches techniques involving a rubber ball to the face, which helps in melting everything away, and also demonstrates in a strange way the belief that human drama can interfere if nothing matters in life.

If any of what I've just explained has you scratching your head, it will make sense when you watch the movie, and it deserves to be seen. The first highpoint is the marvelous cast. Lily Tomlin and, especially, Dustin Hoffman are pitch- perfect as the oddball detectives. Jason Schwartzman is just right as the confused and conflicted Albert, and Naomi Watts gets a chance to reveal her comedic side, as well as her beauty.

The standouts in the cast, though, are Jude Law and Mark Wahlberg. Both actors make a rare delve into a level of comic insanity that neither has done before. Wahlberg is terrifically over the top as the slightly troubled, fuel hating fireman. And as for Law, who I'm a fan of and who acquires an excellent American accent for the film, the fact that an actor of his good looks and serious acting mode has a full out breakdown at the end of the movie is very much a treat, for me at least.

"How am I not myself?"

With reviewing this film and giving it a high rating, I can only hope that others will see I Heart Huckabees as I see it. I already know that this film is built for a limited type of audience, and will most likely turn off viewers who don't get the story. But if it's a high dose of originality that you're looking for, look no further than this purely existential comedy.

Video ****

Fox has delivered the visual goods once again with this phenomenal looking disc. The anamorphic picture is alive and full of striking detail, elevating David O. Russell's unique vision to even greater heights. Image quality is at a full high, with a sharply crisp picture, with terrific use of colors to boot. And while the full screen version is included, this is a true panoramic film, so I strongly advise you to flip over the disc to the reverse side, or else a good portion of the picture will be sorely lost.

Audio ****

Although this is mostly a dialogue driven comedy, the movie has come equipped with some fantastic technical moments, which make the 5.1 mix add up to a superb listen. Dialogue is fantastically clear, Jon Brion's unique score to the film is delivered in strong form, and such individual sequences, such as Albert lying in a body bag as part of an experiment, provide some knockout surround sound quality. Amazingly done!

Features ****

This 2-disc Special Edition release is at a higher price range than the original disc, but believe me; this loaded release is worth it. There's more bang for your buck.

Disc One includes two commentary tracks; one with David O. Russell and the other with Russell and cast members Jason Schwartzman, Mark Wahlberg and Naomi Watts.

Disc Two has even more existential extras, starting with a fully in-depth Production Documentary that chronicles the process of making such on odd piece, as well as Russell's eccentric way of directing. There's a Charlie Rose show interview segment with David O. Russell and stars Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin, 22 deleted/extended scenes, an outtakes reel, a detective infomercial, a music video for Jon Brion's song "Knock Yourself Out" as well as a look at the making of the video with optional director commentary. Lastly, there are several PSAs/Commercials, and a theatrical teaser and trailer for the movie.

Summary:

With its mixture of farce with provocative philosophy on the connection of all things living, I Heart Huckabees is a bold and original piece, and quite a funny one as well. Writer/director David O. Russell has made a film that challenges the mind while delivering frequent zany laughs. And this 2-Disc Special Edition release is the one you should really consider because it's THE best all around release I've seen so far this year!
FREE hit counter and Internet traffic statistics from freestats.com