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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Screwball Comedy > Egghead Comedy > Existentialism > I "Heart" Huckabees (Single DVD)

I “Heart” Huckabees (Single DVD)


Picture: B-     Sound: C+     Extras: C+     Film: B



David O. Russell, outside of a film about the current Middle East War being censored, has not made a film since Three Kings back in 1999.  Now, he takes his biggest risk narrative risk yet with I “Heart” Huckabees, a 2004 comedy with a few differences.  Combining the Screwball Comedies of the 1930s and 1940s with intellectual egghead comedies since sound arrived to film, Russell boldly attempts to both revive and reinvent some of the greatest of lost comedy forms.  Only the freedom for obscenity via the R-rating gives the film’s age away on a syntactic level.


Albert Markovski (Jason Schwartzman, pushing the limits) is a writer and politically aware young man who finds his life out of balance.  By “coincidence” he finds the card of two “existential detectives” Vivian and Bernard (Lily Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman perfectly matched and loaded with chemistry) to investigate what is wrong with his life.  Fellow worker Brad Strand (Jude Law, in one of the few memorable of the Chris Rock-noted overexposed castings Rock correctly called at the Oscars) is driving him crazy, while Tom Corn (Mark Wahlberg) is a fireman (read Fahrenheit 451?) who thinks all the world’s crisis are tied to petroleum unconditionally.  Just when Albert & Tom think they are either on the verge of breakthrough or failure (i.e., there perpetual confusion in the film) arrives Caterine Vauban (Isabelle Huppert, turning over every cinematic image she is known for on its ear), who has alternate philosophies that are diametrically opposed to the detectives.


When first viewing the film, it is easy to be thrown off a bit, even if you are prepared for some of it and know philosophy well.  Tippi Hendren, now known as an environmentalist, gets to play on that angle, while Russell gets to play on her persona a bit from her classic Alfred Hitchcock films.  Marnie (1964) offers all kinds of relationship issues as relevant as those here, while The Birds (1963) is historically the first natural disaster film outside of Biblical Epics.  Naomi Watts literally is Miss Huckabees, while Jean Smart and Talia Shire make welcome appearances.  They help the gender crisis of the film to be expounded upon in all kinds of ways.


Though everyone in the media has used “heart” to describe the symbol of the title as if it were a game of Password, but the cold media has not used the term “love” for some reason.  Is it because this is not a serious melodrama?  Is it because the swearing and quirkiness does not equate love?  Is it because love and chain stores simply do not go together?  Is it because no one in this film has any idea what the word means?  That too is like some kind of existential puzzle; certainly referring to the unattainable, and that some things are beyond language.  The searing is not in vein here, it just shows the frustrations of the characters who are in trouble and do not know whether to give up or not.  Like The Shawshank Redemption back in 1994, the awards shows missed this one.  The rest of the mysteries we will leave to you.


The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image looks good and except for some digital, which is a bit off-putting, but the pan & scan version is a disaster that should be skipped altogether.  Peter Deming, A.S.C., uses the full scope frame more effectively than we have seen lately on most feature films.  Shot in real anamorphic Panavision, the combination of Kodak and Fuji films are uncanny.  Can’t wait for an HD version.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 & 5.1 are more similar than usual as the sound is too much in the front three speakers and DTS would help little here in one of the most annoying such cases of a modern feature film’s sound mix since Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights in 1997.  Why Russell would want this limit is odd, even for this film, but Jon Brion’s score is one of the best we have had from a feature film in a few years and makes for an uncanny match to the film like even fewer we have seen.  It is a triumph of film scoring that is remarkably overlooked.


There are two versions of the film released, including a double set and this single version.  The only two here are two audio commentary tracks, both with Russell.  One is solo, the other where Schwartzman, Wahlberg and Watts join him.  The double set offers a production featurette, The Charlie Rose Show to promote the film, 22 extended and deleted scenes, 5 outtakes, 6 ‘Open Spaces Coalition’ PSAs, commercials, a photo montage, the long version of the Infomercial, its extra dialogue tangents and Jon Brion's performances, behind the scenes of the detective's infomercial, trailers, Jon Brion's Knock Yourself Out music video, Music Video commentary and behind the scenes of Jon Brion's Knock Yourself Out.  That is a great set if you want to pursue the film’s themes further.  The commentaries alone confirm my suspicions of what Russell was after.  For those who expected the film to only mock philosophy the way Stanley Donen’s Funny Face (1957) did without taking it seriously, think again.  I “Heart” Huckabees is at least a minor comedy classic.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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