One of the biggest influences for the ideas presented in David O. Russell's 'I Heart Huckabees' was 9/11. He is quoted as saying in Film Comment Magazine, 'For about two months after 9/11, people were asking really profound questions about reality and existence-and then it was back to business as usual.' Indeed this seems to be the case whenever bad things seem to happen in life as people search for the reasoning behind the events and for a meaning to their own existence. Disillusionment often takes place for many affected by tragedy, as has happened to the characters in 'I Heart Huckabees.' From an activist fighting urban sprawl to a firefighter blaming the worlds ills on petroleum hungry nations, 'I Heart Huckabees' presents profound questions about existence with a unique comic approach.
After seeking the reasoning behind a coincidental meeting, Albert (Jason Schwartzman), an activist/poet, seeks the help of some existential detectives, Bernard and Vivian (Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin). They agree to study his case by spying on his every day activity and getting into his psyche. In an attempt to help Albert seek answers to his profound questions, Bernard and Vivian join Albert with a disillusioned firefighter named Tommy (Mark Whalberg) who seeks answers to the same questions on life. However, Tommy has a strong bias that all the world's problems result from the exploitation of petroleum. During their investigation into Albert's life, Bernard and Vivian realize that Albert's problems often stem from his struggle to fight the Huckabees Corporation from building on the lands Albert tries in vain to protect- particularly with a corporate salesman named Brad (Jude Law). As Bernard and Vivian further investigate, they realize that Brad and his girlfriend Dawn (Naomi Watts), the sexy image behind Huckabees advertising, have a few of their own existential problems to deal with. Especially Dawn who is completely disillusioned by her own beautiful image, as well as Brad's phony persona. Two schools of thought come into play. One, Bernard and Vivian's viewpoint that everything is connected and the world is not a negative place, but chooses not to deal with its problems. On the other hand, Tommy believes in the viewpoints of a French author named Caterine Vauban (Isabell Huppert) who says that the world is simply a mess, pain and anger are present and the only way to deal with it is to just except it. So who is right and who is wrong? The film's message is that neither is truly wrong or right, but the two must meet somewhere in the middle. What's more, perceptions have an important role in this film. Life is often what you make it. A person can be a phony individual and simply jump on the bandwagon of what is popular to seek approval and acceptance. Or, they could ask themselves if they really believe in certain viewpoints and question the right and wrong that exists in our complex, modern world.
At first glance, with the film's slapstick, yet witty intellectual dialogue combined with unique visuals, it would seem that this is the product of Charlie Kaufman. But Russell's ideas are undeniably his own and have been pondered upon in his mind for years. The director of the Gulf-War drama/comedy, 'Three Kings,' and 'Flirting with Disaster' has made one of 2004s best films. 'I Heart Huckabees' is filled with three-dimensional characters and crisp-sounding dialogue that will leave you chuckling hours after seeing the film. Most importantly, it has ideas that most Hollywood executives fear to take on because of our very conventional societal viewpoints. ****
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