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ISSUE 118 VOL 5 PUBLISHED 10/15/2004

Philosophizing Huckabees

By Molly Bayrd
Executive Editor

Friday, October 15, 2004

It's amazing the type of movie one can develop solely based on the premise of an unlikely coincidence and its subsequent link to the complete existential reevaluation of one man's life. After watching the recently released I Heart Huckabees, moviegoers will learn to embrace the philosophy-lover inside. They just may learn, too, to accept the film's repeatedly-reaffirmed idea that everything is the same, only different.

This self-proclaimed existential comedy, written and directed by David O. Russell (Three Kings) is a lively, quirky romp with enough humor to redeem the sometimes confusing philosophical jargon that permeates its oft-laborious 106-minute running time.

Jason Schwartzman plays Albert Markovski, the brooding director of an environmental coalition called Open Spaces, for which he writes and recites laughable beatnik poetry (you rock, rock) in the vain hope of attracting sponsors and support.

Desiring to uncover the coincidence behind his multiple sightings of a tall, African doorman, Albert enlists the help of existential detectives Bernard and Vivian Jaffe (played by a Beatles-mopped Dustin Hoffman and décolletage-bearing Lily Tomlin, respectively.) The pair begins spying on and observing Albert throughout his day in order to solve his so-called existential crisis.

Delightfully inquisitive and purposefully complex, the Jaffes hover in Albert's windowsill and track him on his bicycle, always transcribing cryptic notes in their miniature notebooks. Their primitive bugging equipment and obvious presence in the background of their existential investigation of Albert is very humorus.

When charmingly condescending Huckabees Corporation executive Brad Stand (Jude Law, perfectly cast as the two-faced pretty-boy) threatens to overtake Open Spaces with promises of celebrity endorsements, Albert becomes despondent; he is enraged when Stand begins to meet with the Jaffes to understand his own life.

The situation is further complicated when Stand's girlfriend, Huckabees spokesperson Dawn Campbell (Naomi Watts) becomes involved in the Jaffe's detective work. Albert's existential other at the Jaffe firm, Tommy (Mark Wahlberg in one of his best performances,) persuades Albert to turn against his existential detectives by collaborating with the Jaffe's top competitor, author Caterine Vauban (Isabelle Huppert.)

Wahlberg almost single-handedly carries the film, with his temperamental attitude, disheveled appearance and hilarious antics regarding the cruelty of petroleum use. Schwartzman also shines as Albert, a character that Rushmore fans might embrace as the slightly less-eccentric second coming of Max Fischer. Audiences should pay close attention to a particularly comical dinner party scene with both Wahlberg and Schwartzman at the helm.

Huckabees fluctuates heavily in its examinations of the two extreme philosophies of Vauban -- the inevitability of human drama, the absurdity of connectedness -- and the Jaffes -- everything is connected, and everything is the same, only different. In the end, it conveys the notion that one must walk a fine line between the two extremes in order to properly solve her own existential crises.

I Heart Huckabees is not for everyone. At the very least, however, the film's involving characters and ever-present humor are bound to sufficiently stimulate the funny bone in Rushmore lovers everywhere.

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