Don’t ask me what I Heart Huckabees is about – I really couldn’t help you. I can’t offer any insight into what the title means, or what the film is trying to say, so I’m not going to pretend and I’ll save us both the time. Don’t ask and don’t think; just watch. All you need to know is that David O. Russell (Three Kings, Flirting with Disaster) gets messy and surreal – delivering a film that is totally unforeseen and completely mad. There is no specific reason as to why I Heart Huchabees is so brilliant, but it really is. In fact, using the word “reason” in this context is pointless. Just blindly believe and go wherever it takes you.
And on this note I should have ended my review. But the pleasure of looking into such a ridiculous/highly philosophical film – it depends on the individual- brings, is just too great to stop talking now. Inexplicable and all-over-the-place, unwilling to help us identify with them and mentally ill, David O. Russell’s characters are wonderful and so is his story and dream-like direction. His film is colourful and out of control; beautiful and psychotic. A delightful tribute to mental illness, depression, loneliness and the need for a purpose – just any purpose; something that will give us a reason as to what we’re doing here. If you’re ready to mock every single one of your values and fears, I Heart Huckabees will show you the way.
Jason Schwartzman offers some kind of a centre for the rest of the characters and cast to move around, all quickly becoming interconnected in a nonsensical way. And so Jude Law, Naomi Watts, Lily Tomlin and Isabelle Hupert soon join the madness. I deliberately left Dustin Hoffman and Mark Wahlberg out of this, as I strongly feel that their presence in the film (not so much their characters’, but their actual acting presence) takes I Heart Huckabees from good-old-absurd humour, to something tasteful and respectable. These two don’t just join the insanity; they define it.
Every time I watch David O. Russell’s film, I realise how lucky he was to have included in his project two actors more insane than the characters they were given to portray. Although every other member of the cast has fun with their on-screen personas and stretch their boundaries to increase comedy value, Dustin Hoffman is dead serious, knowledgeable and experienced in life’s absurdity – a professor of insanity and one who has stopped questioning the world around him; he now reigns over it, aided by the illogical wisdom he has acquired over the years.
And no matter how much I’ve tried to find it in me to think of Mark Wahlberg as a pretty boy, interested in action films and spending his day in the gym, his choices of films and characters repeatedly force me to recognise his genius. Little did I know when watching Fear as a teenager that Wahlberg would turn into such a skilful comedian; one so quiet and flat in his comicalness that ends up being overlooked. This is the way he goes about his character in I Heart Huckabees as well. He’s so confused and irritated by those taking what’s happening around him as a laughing matter, that he comes across almost tragic. He’s a lonely and tortured soul, a sufferer on the blink of a neurosis, a man mystified by this world and out of his depth – lost as to what is the meaning in all this.
David O. Russell’s existential questions are posed through a film that has just as much coherence and structure as such problems ever could. I Heart Huckabees remains detached, far away from us and unwilling to connect. The frustration caused by its extreme loneliness has given way to panic, anxiety and restlessness. Distress, fear and depression that have been the result of the lack of a solid purpose, are now recurring emotions, not allowing our characters to ever get through, unite, truly love and find relief.
If I Heart Huckabees is messy, strange and utterly paranoid, it’s merely because the question it deals with is too – since what do you choose between being aware of a disastrous truth and living in a beautiful lie? Do you go for a clear mind with the angst and hopelessness that it entails, or do you treat yourself to blissful ignorance according to which whatever shines is gold?