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Published November 26th, 2004 | by Michelle Thomas

I Heart Huckabees Review

Classification: 15 Director: David O. Russell Rating: 3.5/5

Three Kings was a really good film. It managed to combine slyly subversive political commentary with a moving story, clever filmmaking and good performances. So I was looking forward to the follow up even before I heard about the casting, which is golden. So, without further ado, onto the review.

Environmental activist Albert Markovski (Jason Shwartzman), convinced that a series of coincidences involving a doorman holds a key to the meaning of life, hires Bernard and Vivian Jaffe (Dustin Hoffman, Lily Tomlin), aka the Existential Detectives, to investigate. The difference being that these detectives investigate the mysteries of Albert’s own life, following him round, observing his activities, and questioning his friends and colleagues. It turns out that Albert has been less than honest about some of his relationships, especially his obsessive rivalry with Brad Stand (Jude Law), golden boy and PR executive for Huckabees, a chain of popular superstores.

As the detectives get closer to solving Albert’s case, Brad turns the tables by hiring them himself, and Bernard and Vivian begin to dig into Brad’s ambition and his relationship with the face of Huckabees, Dawn (Naomi Watts). Albert, in the meantime, is losing faith in Bernard and Vivian’s methods and, pairing up with another of the duo’s clients, Tommy (Mark Wahlberg), he becomes involved with Caterine Vauban (Isabelle Huppert), French nihilist and the Jaffes’ nemesis – motto ‘Cruelty, Manipulation, Meaninglessness’. Will Being or Nothingness triumph? And will Albert be able to save the swamp?

A lot of people seem to have got their heads in a bit of a spin over I © Huckabees, maybe taking the word Existential a bit too seriously and forgetting that its also being billed as a comedy. And it’s a very funny comedy, a baroque farce using humour to attack everything from therapy culture to the West’s reliance on Gulf oil supplies to corporate duplicity. Who are the Existential Detectives? No one ever questions their credentials, or their bizarre methods, even when Bernard tells Albert (on first meeting) to get inside a body bag. Later we see Tommy and Albert, under Caterine’s supervision, whacking each other in the face with a ball. The search for meaning and happiness is universal, but what does this reliance on therapy say about our society?

Russell is a cool and clever director, with a vision all his own. In Three Kings he wasn’t afraid to play around and show things that other directors just tell you about in the script – Mark Wahlberg’s collapsed lung for example. This comes into play again in I © Huckabees. Bernard, a kindly professor type, is trying to explain to Tommy and Albert that everything is connected. As he explains, we see this play out on screen. Russell also has fun with Albert’s memories and inner journey, using simple animation and cardboard cutouts.

I © Huckabees is a peculiar film and maybe not for everyone. But it’s also an entertaining romp through some of life’s biggest questions. It might not give you any answers, but it’ll make you laugh. Besides, where else can you see Jude Law breastfeeding Jason Shwartzman?

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