The Michigan Daily discovered in April 2005 that several articles written by arts editor Marshall W. Lee did not meet the newspaper’s standard of ethical journalism. Parts of these stories had been plagiarized from other news sources. The article below appears to contain plagiarism, and the Daily no longer stands by its content.

Film Reviews
More like Van Hellsuck.

 

Remember that old philosophical dilemma about a tree falling in the woods? In the meandering chaos of writer-director David O. Russell’s nutty universe, the answer is defiant, delirious and perhaps even brilliant. “I <3 Huckabees” is the tree, the woods and the whole screwy universe, and it seems at times as if all that matters to Russell is that this brain-bending quirkfest and the characters who populate it can hear themselves rant, rave and implode.

Much like its abstract and silly subject matter, “I <3 Huckabees” is a liberation from conventions — at least from the commercial conventions that weigh down most American movies — and the free-wheeling film defies classification with every subversive twist and turn. It is at once an intellectual slapstick comedy and a verbose metaphysical mind-trip. Viewed from a dramatic perspective, “I Huckabees” will surely leave a lot of people scratching their heads. Where viewers will get into trouble with this film is if they try to buy into its philosophical diatribe, expecting it to offer in the end some profound existential truth, in the end. “I <3 Huckabees” is first and foremost a satire of cinematic pretentiousness.

The ensemble storyline of “I <3 Huckabees” whirlpools around the interconnected lives of four individuals — an angst-ridden environmental activist, Albert (Jason Schwartzman, “Rushmore”); an oddball fireman, Tommy (Mark Wahlberg); a knockout commercial spokesmodel, Dawn (Naomi Watts); and a smarmy corporate hot-shot, Brad (the ubiquitous Jude Law in a pitch-perfect role). Taxing every ounce of main-stream moviegoer patience, all four off-kilter leads experiment with new age philosophy in a convoluted attempt to find meaning in their mixed-up lives.

Throughout the film, much of what appears to be deeply philosophical is, in fact, satirical. “Huckabees” does present a pair of competing life views — that everything is interconnected and meaningful or that life is a futile chaos and truth is derived only through pain and isolation — but ultimately the film observes that, in the case of these characters, neither approach is more obviously effective. Russell is openly critical of those self-righteous individuals who believe that their way is “the” way and instead of espousing the bizarre existential doctrines of his characters, he ridicules them.

This movie is certainly not for everyone. Casual filmgoers will be put off early and often by Russell’s singular and somewhat self-important focus, but the beauty of “I <3 Huckabees” is in its blatant disregard for our affections. Like watching someone else’s crazy, convoluted dream, the film shines and dazzles from a distance, and audiences who can avoid taking Russell’s jargon too seriously will thoroughly enjoy this wild comic ride.

 

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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