A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie has extremely strong language ("f--k," "motherf---ker," "c--ksucker," "s--t," "bulls--t," "d--k," "p--sy," "a--hole"), and some sexual references (frequency of sexual intercourse is discussed, as is masturbation) and one brief explicit sexual situation (one of the male characters is shown with long blonde hair and female breasts, as one of the other male characters sucks on one of the breasts until milk comes out). Characters drink and smoke. The movie includes mild comic peril and some tense confrontations.
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What's the story?
In I HEART HUCKABEES, Albert Markovski (Jason Schwartzman) is having problems at work. The Open Spaces coalition he put together to oppose development of a marsh and woods is losing its focus, thanks to the charm and dazzle of Brad Stand (Jude Law), a smooth public relations guy from a Walmart-like chain called Huckabees, "the everything store." But what Albert wants to understand is a coincidence. He has seen the same tall young African man three times in three very different sets of circumstances and wants to know what that means. So he goes to a husband-and-wife team of "existential detectives," Vivian (Lily Tomlin) and Bernard Jaffe (Dustin Hoffman) and asks them to investigate. He wants them to examine the coincidence and tells them to stay away from his office, but since they believe that everything is connected they accept no limitations; they may not even see any. Meanwhile, another client of the existential detectives is having, well, an existential crisis. A fireman named Tommy (Mark Wahlberg) is reading a book by Caterine Vauban (Isabelle Huppert) that says nothing in life is connected or meaningful, and that feels much more real to him than what the Jaffes have been telling him. Brad Stand also has hired the Jaffes and is not prepared for what happens when they begin talking to his girlfriend, Dawn (Naomi Watts), the bikini-wearing Huckabees spokesmodel.
Is it any good?
There aren't many comedies about existentialism, and the brilliance of this movie is how it uses the form of the screwball comedy both to represent and explore existential themes. The movie has a sure sense of comic structure and timing, with classic comedy conventions such as high-speed dialogue, wild plot permutations, family craziness, over-reaction to trivial things, under-reaction to non-trivial things, some sharp satire about our consumer culture, a little slapstick, some terrible poetry, and of course a few romantic complications. I Heart Huckabees is clearly the product of someone who has waded through Teutonic philosophy and eastern mysticism and fortunately came out the other side with a sense of humor intact.
Director and co-screenwriter David O. Russell has a lot of fun playing with the classic philosophical dualities/debates. The difference between philosophy and art is that philosophy tries to deal with dichotomies in a logical and linear way, whereas art is free to ricochet back and forth between them like a pinball machine. Russell directs his crackerjack cast at top speed, and they all perform with buoyant conviction and pure comic energy that is delicious to watch. This is Law's best performance so far, stunning in its fearlessness and control of tone. He keeps Brad a character and not a caricature when he's at his most charming and when he begins to unravel.
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