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I Heart Huckabees (2004) - R

"I Heart Huckabees" follows the trials and tribulations of uncanny environmental coalition leader Albert Markovski and his attempts to solve his repeatedly non-coincidental run-ins with an overly tall African American man. Hiring two existential detectives Jaffe and Jaffe, Albert and his other, Tommy Corn, set out to find the truth and bring down Huckabees' corporate employee Brad Stand.

The cast includes: Jason Schwartzman, Dustin Hoffman, Lily Tomlin, Mark Wahlberg, Jude Law, and Naomi Watts.

Written by: David O'Russell and Jeff Baena.

Directed by: David O’Russell.

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Genre: Comedy.

huckabeeshuckabeeshuckabeeshuckabeeshuckabeeshuckabees

Tagline: An existential experience that's out of
this world… and yet not out of this world.

Rated: R for language, brief sexual content and a sex scene, and partial nudity.

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Albert Markovski (Jason Schwartzman) is strange. Leader of the grass-roots environmental coalition Open Spaces, Albert dedicates his time to writing less than prolific poems about the coalition’s current environmental crises in hopes they will be an inspiration to the cause. But Albert’s poems aren’t very successful and his unconventional methods are about to be undermined by a larger than life corporate employee: Brad Stand (Jude Law) of Huckabees Corporate. His agitation with Stand’s motives, combined with his repeated run-ins with an overly tall African provoke him to hire existential detectives Jaffe and Jaffe to help him solve his personal life crisis.

Once in their office Albert is immediately introduced to the uncanny methods of Vivian (Lily Tomlin) and Bernard (Dustin Hoffman) Jaffe. While the former relies on her ridiculously obvious and rather invasive sleuthing methods (undermining the precept that detectives are supposed to be out of sight and undetectable), the latter stresses the importance of the theories of universality and infinity. Trying to help Albert see that ‘everything is related to everything’ and that ‘everything is the same’ the two detectives begin to help Albert solve his crisis involving his tall African man. But their perspective shifts to Albert’s work, despite avid protestations from Albert, when they learn of Brad Stand’s threatening status in regards to Albert’s fate with the Open Spaces coalition.

Trying to solve Albert’s personal crisis, directly affected by Brad Stand and his work, Jaffe and Jaffe begin to snoop around Open Spaces and Huckabees, which provokes Brad to take up a case with the two detectives. Feigning sincere interest, Brad enlists the Jaffe’s help merely to further aggravate Albert and push him out of the charter. His motives are to successfully take over the Open Spaces’ latest project, ‘saving the marsh’, while simultaneously allowing Huckabees to establish an ‘eco-friendly’ mall. Using his suave charm to win over Albert’s coalition, Albert suddenly finds himself pushed out of Open Spaces and desperate.

Enter Albert’s ‘other’, Tommy Corn (Mark Wahlberg); a compatible companion matched up by Jaffe and Jaffe who is to play the role of mutual supporter during ‘the dismantling process of one’s self-identity’. Corn, whose biggest fear is the criminality of petroleum use, is in a desperate situation when his wife leave’s him after his drastic attempts to understand radical philosophy provoke unstable behavior. His latest dilemma is his discovery of Caterine Vauban’s (Isabelle Huppert) radical theory about the ‘nothingness and darkness of the universe’. Apparently her theory justifies petroleum use because of life’s temporality, which confuses Tommy who was taught to believe in the criminality of petroleum use and its connectedness to everything by none other than his detectives, Jaffe and Jaffe. Stressing the logic behind Vauban’s theory, Tommy begins to upset Jaffe and Jaffe who do nothing to conceal their wariness for the woman’s radically dark theories.

But as Albert finds himself being pushed out of the charter, Tommy and Albert begin to believe Caterine’s theory may be the truth to reality after all. Eventually they abandon Jaffe and Jaffe and head to Vauban for answers. But once with Vauban the two learn that the essence of ‘pure being’, though satisfying, is only temporal and will always be polluted by the melodrama of human nature. Vauban stresses the reality of sadness and nothingness and plays Tommy and Albert off of each other to reveal the truth behind melodrama’s tangible effects. To do so, Vauban begins to have an affair with Markovski which, in leaving Tommy out, provokes his sorrow and isolation, thereby demonstrating Vauban’s point. Now her protégé, Albert heads to Brad’s house whereby to get his vengeance he plans on torching his jet skis.

Meanwhile pan to Huckabees corporate where, after having snooped around Brad’s house for the better part of the past several months, Jaffe and Jaffe have discovered Brad’s crisis to be centered on his fears about not being loved and accepted. His fears are further complicated when his live-in girlfriend Dawn (Naomi Watts), supermodel and face of Huckabees, begins to question her relationship to Brad and her need to ‘be pretty all the time. Enlisting the help of Jaffe and Jaffe, Dawn has begun to dismantle her identity to find a ‘peasant girl’ who refuses to subjugate herself to her supermodel title. But her new garb is causing problems at Huckabees corporate and Brad desperately tries to get her to revert to her former ways.

Meanwhile, as the pressure rises preceding the large charity meeting Brad has formed in alliance with Open Spaces for his latest ‘save the marsh’ project, Brad becomes more and more desperate to charm his way up the ladder and into head corporate approval. But Jaffe and Jaffe catch on and allude to their knowing about the truth of his ‘boring nature’, his ‘desire to be loved’, and his fear of being like his younger brother. Panicked, Brad heads into a downward spiral of despair nearly loses his job, his girlfriend (who is rescued by the non-materialist Tommy Corn where it is love at first sight), and his house (which Albert nearly torches to the ground).

As Vauban rewards Albert for his ability to bring about and thereby understand the concept of evil and destruction in the universe, it is upon seeing the picture of Brad crying that Albert finally understands that his sorrow is like Brad’s sorrow, just as Jaffe and Jaffe indicate. Instantly Albert manages to reconcile the two ‘radically overlapping yet fractured philosophies’. Rushing to the charity event to make amends with Brad, Albert helps shed light on Brad’s despair by passing on Vauban’s card. Thereafter he returns to Tommy and explains that it is only when they merge Vauban and the Jaffe’s theories that the ‘truth of reality’ can finally be seen…case closed.

“I Heart Huckabees” is a witty, off-beat comedy that will have you laughing out-loud at the eccentric, unconventionally funny film. Set against a contemporary issue of environmental awareness, O’Russell paints brilliantly complicated and intuitive characters that turn to radical philosophies about existentialism and its precepts to help explain the truth behind the pain of human suffering. A serious subject has never been dealt with in such a successfully light-hearted manner and the cast is absolutely brilliant in their depiction of their wacky, eccentric roles.

Jason Schwartzman’s off-beat look fits perfectly with his character and his jittery, boyish performance resonates as both hilarious and realistic simultaneously. Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin are flat out funny and Mark Wahlberg enters another dimension of acting as he takes on a role more character-driven than any of his previous works. In fact he absolutely nails his obsessive-compulsive, green peace, philosophic character. Naomi Watts gets ‘down and dirty’ several times and unabashedly abandons her sexiness to reveal a raw look at the importance of human existence in an equally poignant and hysterical way. Jude Law embraces his sarcastic smartass suit-wearing, BMW-driving corporate ‘slave boy’ character with a panache that rings true. Isabelle Huppert’s stoic performance adds a brilliantly comic contrast to her over-emotional counterparts. All in all the film was a delight to watch, to ponder, and to laugh at and with.

“I Heart Huckabees” is definitely a left of the middle film that is artsy, intuitive, and thought-provoking. More importantly, its funny. Understandably this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but with O’Russell leading the way, the cast soars into new dimensions of character development most uncommon to typical Blockbuster films. As an independent film it didn’t receive the Oscar status it deserved, nevertheless, it managed to attract the attention of the Golden Trailer Awards and several other Actors and Film Guilds who recognized the witty ingenious surrounding the dialogue and plot of the script. All in all “I Heart Huckabees” is as witty as it is original, as funny as it is contemplative, and as groundbreaking as it is ironically familiar. This isn’t a straightforward pop-culture form of entertainment, but if you’re looking for something a little different and a little off-beat, tune in and enjoy!

Main Characters:

Jason Schwartzman plays Albert Markovski, the eccentric tree hugging poet who hires existential detectives Jaffe and Jaffe to solve his life crisis and help him take down corporate employee Brad Stand.

Dustin Hoffman plays Bernard Jaffe, existential detective who believes in the principles of ‘universality and infinity’ and who uses his eccentric methods to help Albert solve his personal crises.

Lily Tomlin plays Vivian Jaffe, Bernard’s wife who has a more logical, yet equally ridiculous method to solving personal crimes, and whose obvious sleuthing provokes many laughs.

Mark Wahlberg plays Tommy Corn, Albert Markovski’s ‘other’ who hires Jaffe and Jaffe to help him solve his personal crisis surrounding the criminality of petroleum use, and who introduces Albert to the Jaffes’ nemesis, Caterine Vauban. Jude Law plays Brad Stand, employee of Huckabees Corporate who tries to undermine Albert by bamboozling his charter and enlisting Jaffe and Jaffe.

Naomi Watts plays Dawn Campbell, the ‘face’ of Huckabees who tries to solve her crises of having to be ‘pretty all day’ and being ‘Brad’s play toy’ by hiring Jaffe and Jaffe.

Isabelle Huppert plays Caterine Vauban, a radical French philosopher whose theories about the ‘nothingness and darkness of the universe’ have made her the Jaffes’ arch-nemesis which is further proliferated by her stealing their clients, Tommy and Albert.