Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Happiness; drama / satire, USA, 1998; D: Todd Solondz, S: Jane Adams, Dylan Baker, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Lara Flynn Boyle, Justin Elvin, Cynthia Stevenson, Lila Glantzman-Leib, Louise Lasser, Ben Gazzara, Rufus Read, Molly Shannon, Jon Lovitz
Three grown up sisters, whose parents are getting divorced, are having problems: Joy breaks up her relationship with the ugly Andrew so he commits suicide. She works as a teacher in a refugee education center so Vladimir, a Russian student, seduces her, but just to get 500 $ from her...Trish discovers that her husband, psychiatrist Bill, is a pedophile and that he tranquillized a little boy, Johnny, to sodomize him, so she gets a divorce...Helen, the most attractive sister, is sad that she wasn't raped as a girl because she would have ideas for a novel, while she ignores her overweight neighbor Allen who adores her. Allen thus starts a relationship with Kristina. In the end, the sisters are alone and dine optimistically.
Excellent independent cult drama "Happiness" definitely isn't for everyone due to its direct approach towards the tricky issues in life, but it actually isn't neither depressive nor trashy, but always optimistic and honest tragigrotesque with brilliant characters who all search for their happiness, some in a perverted, some in a normal way, some achieve it, some don't. Especially impressive is the beginning where Andrew (Jon Lovitz), a symbol for all resignated people due to their "unattractive physique", gives a phenomenal speech towards Joy who breaks up with him: "You think I'm a lard-ass fat-so? You think I'm shit? Well, you're wrong, 'cause I'm champagne, and you're shit. Until the day you die, you, not me, will always be shit!", and then he even goes to commit suicide, almost as if he takes revenge on her by that act. The most bizarre character is the eccentric psychiatrist Bill who dreams about walking on a idyllic meadow and shooting on happy passerbys, goes to a psychiatrist himself and discovers he is a pedophile. The movie is also notable for the brave and early film depiction of ejaculation, though in a humorous way, and since director Todd Solondz has some sort of a strange empathy towards his characters, he even somehow manages to give them a humane, understandable touch, grasping less towards the provocative and more towards the emotional.