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Happiness (1998)
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Review Date: January 09, 1999
Director: Todd Solondz
Writer: Todd Solondz
Producers: Ted Hope and Christine Vachon
Actors:
Dylan Baker as Bill Maplewood
Philip Seymour Hoffman as Allen
Lara Flynn Boyle as Helen Jordan
Plot:
Vignettes of several dysfunctional people all linked together through the lives of three diametric sisters. One sister is a very successful novelist. The other is a housewife, whose husband hides an extremely dark secret about himself, and the third is a 30-something loser, who still has no clue as to what she wants to do with her life. Their parents are also part of the package, as the film serpentines its way through the troubles, perversions and sexual dichotomy of many of its happily-challenged subjects.
Critique:
This is a bad movie. Crap served surreptitiously on an independent tray of arty pretension and highbrow entertainment. Some of its problems: It's too long and runs at a snails pace. It's uninteresting and unentertaining. It's not funny and contains very little human drama. But even worse than that, it pretends to be something terribly insightful and revealing, when really it's just boring and obviously shocking. It's pretentious and might actually by enjoyed by those who like figuring out the "true meaning" of a film or its characters' intentions, but for all the rest of us, who like to go to a movie theatre, order some nachos, and enjoy ourselves, this one is a lost cause. I'm trying to think of one redeemable quality in this film, but I just can't figure one out. There's a regular husband-guy ("Mr. Rogers on acid" as per the Arrow's comments) who lives a double as a pedophile. Hmmmm....yes, yes, how utterly insightful and shocking. *Yawn* Ironic as it all may be, I didn't care for the characters, their lives, or this film.

So is this film a satire or a true reflection of the lives of many of our contemporaries living amongst us today? The truth is that I just don't know. The film was very uneven in that sense, and had plenty of scenes featuring real-life dramatic situations, while others, clearly indicated its "tongue and cheekness". The point is that I couldn't figure it out, cared even less, and I just didn't appreciate any of the tragic characters or anything that the film had to say. Am I too much of a simpleton, and am I missing the "bigger picture" of what Mr. Solondz is attempting to tell us in his oh-so subtle and annoying depression-fest? Perhaps.

The bottom line is that as a great movie lover, I generally tend to find something nice to say about most films. In that sense, this movie did offer some true and realistic performances by its cast, especially Dylan Baker, who was excellent as the husband with the secret, and Jane Adams as the pathetic loser sister. But other than that, please don't see this movie unless you also enjoyed other self-indulgent indie pieces such as THE DOOM GENERATION (1/10) and YOUR FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS (4/10). And another thing, a few scenes of masturbation in a film, mixed with plenty of shots of cum flying around do not an insightful, real and good indie movie make. We must always remember that a film must be interesting or insightful, or at the very least, entertaining. This movie struck out on all three counts. Where are the Tarantinos and Kevin Smiths when you need 'em?
(c) 2017 Berge Garabedian
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