November 25, 2009

Film Review: I Heart Huckabees / Amory Ho-wang Hui

I Heart Huckabees (2004)
Directed by David O. Russell
Written by David O. Russell, Jeff Baena
Starring: Jason Schwartzman, Isabelle Huppert, Dustin Hoffman, Lily Tomlin, Jude Law, Mark Wahlberg, Naomi Watts

An environmentalist, a corporate executive, a spokesmodel, a firefighter, two existential detectives and a nihilistic philosopher. What can possibly come out of this bizarre pack?

Whether I Heart Huckabees is a shallow comedy behind the facade of existentialist discussions or a rigorous philosophical piece embellished with absurd drama, it is your case to argue: Albert Markovski (Jason Schwartzman), leader of the Open Spaces Coalition, has been undergoing a series of bemusing coincidences. With the help of two Existential Detectives, Bernard and Vivian Jaffe (Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin) who advocate the experience of 'universal inter-connectedness,' Albert contemplates his life and relationships. Meanwhile, Brad Stand (Jude Law), an executive at Huckabees, a popular chain of retail superstores, infiltrates Open Spaces in planning to build a new store. When Brad also hires the detectives, they examine his apparently fulfilling life and his relationship with his girlfriend, the spokesmodel of Huckabees, Dawn Campbell (Naomi Watts). To complicate matters, Albert meets anti-petroleum firefighter Tommy Corn (Mark Wahlberg) and the two go against Brad with the teachings of the Jaffes' adversary, the French radical Caterine Vauban (Isabelle Huppert), who persuades them to detach from daily concerns and indulge in individualistic pleasures. The film goes on to elaborate the feminist revolt of the philosophically liberated of Dawn, as well as the conflicts between Albert-Tommy and Brad. Eventually, it brings on a confrontation between the two schools of philosophical thoughts and presents a resolution or synthesis of some sort.

While I Heart Huckabees contains commonplace elements of visual hilarity (you get to see a soaked and whining Jude Law), it contextualizes comedy in a dialectic regarding how we relate ourselves to the world. The discussions may be superficial instead of academically solid, but at the very least the film introduces the possibility of a philosophical comedy where humor derives from actions motivated by seemingly opposing doctrines.

Amory Ho-wang Hui is currently a BA year 2 student at HKU, majoring in Comparative Literature. He is the ex-Academic Secretary of Society of Comparative Literature, A.A.H.K.U.S.U., Session 2007-2008.

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