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Happiness (1998)

DVD Cover (Lions Gate)
Genres:
Black Comedy, Comedy Drama, Ensemble Film
Director:
Todd Solondz Todd Solondz
Starring:
Jane Adams Jane Adams
Jon Lovitz Jon Lovitz
Philip Seymour Hoffman Philip Seymour Hoffman
Dylan Baker Dylan Baker
Lara Flynn Boyle Lara Flynn Boyle

7.8 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by bluemeanie
Added: June 09, 2007
This is a difficult film to watch on a multitude of levels:

01. Director Todd Solondz has little regard for his audience, in a good way. He doesn't care about spoon feeding an issue to them and presents his issues very plainly and very honestly, but also in a way that still seems very cinematic in the doing. With "Happiness" -- how do you present a sub-plot about a normal suburban father who sodomizes small children on the side? How do you have a father and son have a traditional 'father and son chat' with the dad giving the son graphic sexual suggestions and even going further than that, at points? Todd Solondz knows most audiences won't tolerate that -- but he doesn't care. He feels this topic is valid and he presents it in a very fictitious and very cinematic way, which is what helps make "Happiness" such a strong picture.

02. The characters are numerous. We are introduced to everyone from Joy Jordan (Jane Adams), who seems to have little direction and gets a job teaching immigrants how to speak English; Allen (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a pervert who likes making crude calls to women, who eventually meets Kristina (Camryn Manheim), who hacked up her doorman because he tried to come on to her; Helen (Lara Flynn Boyle), a successful writer who doesn't seem to have anything meaningful in her life; Mona (Louise Lasser) and Lenny (Ben Gazzara) -- who separate after years and years or marriage, forcing Lenny to re-evaluate his life and Mona to discover a new way to occupy her time; and Bill Maplewood (Dylan Baker), the average dad who just happens to also be a regular monster.

03. Solondz' directorial style is very meandering. He creeps along at a snail's pace, and there really isn't much action in the film. Everyone blends together, but nothing exciting pops up, other than the written word and the ways in which the actors perform those words. The opening sequence, with Jane Adams and Jon Lovitz at the restaurant is wonderful. Lovitz delivers his best performance to date, and certainly his most unusual. He has such an awkward intensity to the monologue that makes every second work. There is also a very fantastical sequence with Dylan Baker daydreaming about taking a trip to the park and gunning down person after person after person. But, the most intense sequence comes at the end, with Baker and his son talking about things that Baker's character might have done to his son's friend. It's tragic and it's hard to watch and it's amazing.

I appreciate Todd Solondz' work. He takes on issues no one else wants to take. With "Welcome to the Dollhouse", he dealt with alienation. With "Storytelling", he tackles the faux family lifestyle; and with "Palindromes", he tackles abortion. With "Happiness", he's dealing with loneliness, but loneliness that takes differing forms. He presents a group of lonely people who are not finding their 'happiness'. Through this film, he tries to help each one of them find their happiness, even when that happiness takes the form of something very sordid and very horrible. Solondz is not condoning what he presents -- he's merely presenting it. Love it or hate it, "Happiness" gets people talking, and that is what a good film does. 9/10.
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grain of sand #1: grain of sand - added 06/10/2007, 05:22 AM
saw this movie on the high reccomendation of a friend.
I thought it was really great, really fucked up, and I had a really awkward feeling the whole time the movie was rolling.
Tristan #2: Tristan - added 11/01/2009, 05:32 PM
Really really great movie. Difficult to watch at times though. Too many disturbing and awkward moments. Kind of makes you happy with your own situation after seeing what some of these people go through.

10/10
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