It is a frustrating experience going to see a film only to find that it is not nearly as good as it aspires to be. That’s the feeling I had upon exiting the theater after seeing this. Here is a brief bit of dialogue that more or less sums up the experience: Dawn Campbell “You can’t deal with my infinite nature can you?” Brad Stand “That is so not true. Wait what does that even mean?” That is the movie in a nutshell, a lot of existentential posturing that tries to be deep and meaningful, but doesn’t allow it’s characters come to any real resolution to their real world drama. A lot of grandiose talk, with little to nothing to back it up.
The film follows Albert Markovski, an environmental activist who is working with Brad Stand, an executive with a chain of stores called Huckabees. Albert has a series of coincidental meetings with a tall Sudanese man, and wishes to find out if it means anything. He enlists the aid of a pair of existential detectives, Vivian and Bernard Jaffe. Their investigation involves interjecting themselves into every aspect of Albert’s life, in the process finding more customers among his friends and adversaries.
It tries to be so deep, expounding on the meaning of life, how everything is or isn’t connected, how we have to peel away layers to find our true selves, the effect that lying can have on us, all these great questions. The problem is, the characters are not interesting enough in their real world drama to care about how they apply it outside of the psychobabble dialogue.
This isn’t to say that this is not a quirky fun film, it just isn’t as deep as it tries to hard to be. The cast is very good, their performances are good, the betrayal comes in the form of the script. I really liked the idea that David O. Russell is exploring here with theories on universal explanation being applied on a personal level. The idea of trying to find self. Sadly it just doesn’t have anything beneath the surface.
Back to the good things for a moment. There are some wonderfully bizarre dialogue exchanges, like the one I quoted above, not to mention the quirky situations and sights given to us throughout. It’s hard to be completely off with a cast including Jason Schwartzman, Mark Wahlberg, Jude Law, Naomi Watts, Lily Tomlin, and Dustin Hoffman. They all take on their roles with gusto giving them this other worldly quality. It is almost as if we have shifted into an alternate reality where normal life is shoved to the side in the effort of achieving metaphysical balance.
Bottomline. This film really defies explanation. It provides much in the way of quotable dialogue and bizarre situations, but sadly there is not enough below the surface to garner a terribly favorable outcome. I recommend it for the sheer absurdity contained within but not for any real meaning. Shut down and enjoy.
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