I ♡ Huckabees (2004)

I   Huckabees, or I Heart Huckabees is a philosophical comedy that follows Albert Markovski (Schwartzman), as he is investigated by existential detectives (Hoffman and Tomlin).  Markovski seeks to find meaning in specific coincidences in his life. His journey inspires him to learn more about the meaning of life.  The story encompasses opposing and differing ideologies surrounding self-image and status,  the human impact on the world, and the interconnected relation-ship between everything within the universe.  The film also features a comedic performance from Wahlberg as well as Jonah Hill’s debut in the acting world.

Self-image plays a large role in this film.  There is a distinct difference in the way that Markovski expresses and composes himself when compared to his antagonist Brad Stand (Law).  The charismatic guy that seems to be skating through life. Markovski is shunned for expressing himself, while Stand is rewarded for leaning in to his charismatic corporate role.  Coming to terms with one’s self seems to be the intended goal of the existential detectives and the film as a whole.

The line “How am I not myself?” imprints the question of true self identity onto the viewer.  Is it possible to not act in one’s true nature?  Being “fake” and telling people what you think they want to hear is a common coping mechanism one might use to fit in or feel accepted.  However, at what point would this inauthentic version of yourself define you in the eyes of those around you.  I   Huckabees stirs up that inner monologue of self doubt, forcing the characters to embrace the honest version of themselves.

David O. Russell paints a picture in which American society breeds the majority of citizens to value vanity and social stature above all else.  When, in reality, society should be fostering honesty, creativity, and self-awareness.  This can been seen through I   Huckabees’ rendering of the “corporate world” that is submerged in egotism and superficiality.  Not only is there a drive within the company to move to the top, but a drive to move the company itself to the top with disregard for the impacts that might have on the individual, the co-workers, or the environment.

A major and ever present theme in this film is the human impact on nature.  The major plot point of the film is the Wetlands and the best way to preserve them.  Markovski’s righteous approach is more emotional with a grass roots mentality that attempts to preserve every part of the land.  Stand’s approach is more proactive with a higher chance of bringing awareness to the cause, at the cost of sacrificing at least half of the Wetlands to commercial development.

Like many aspects of the film, the situation between Markovski and Stand can be seen as two sides to the same coin.  There are certainly different agendas, goals, and approaches to problems that they both exhibit; however, at the same time they both find themselves dealing with similar situations.  Their stories are interconnected and demonstrate clear and opposite points of view.

Interconnectivity is another common theme in I   Huckabees.  One macro-level theory in the film is that everything is conceptually connected.  When broken down on an atomic level everything is just a collection of atoms.  If you can view the air, the ground, civilization, and any object or creature you can think of as a collection of atoms that comprise the world and the universe, then you have Jaffe’s, played by Hoffman, theory of “the blanket.”

On the micro-level, the film turns to the characters realization that the full emotional gamut that they feel is shared by everyone, including their enemies.  The isolation and turmoil that they experience makes them realize that they are, in fact, not alone, because they at least share the pain of loneliness and defeat along with the joys of camaraderie and victory.

The film’s messages are overt in this quirky philosophical comedy.  It is refreshing to watch a movie that is light in subtext and gets straight to the point.  Instead of trying to hide everything in allegory, the writers, David O. Russell and Jeff Baena, let the subject matter speak for itself.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Directed by: David O. Russell

Cinematography: Peter Deming

Written by: David O. Russell, Jeff Baena

Music by: Jon Brion

Starring: Jason Schwartzman, Isabelle Huppert, Dustin Hoffman, Lily Tomlin, Jude Law, Mark Wahlberg, and Naomi Watts

Runtime: 1h 47m

Genre: Comedy

Distributed by: Fox Searchlight Pictures


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