Fox Searchlight/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment .
R4 . COLOR . 102 mins .
M15+ . PAL
An attempt to outline David O. Russel’s intricate plot and characters would itself be an exercise in futility. Most of the fun found in I Heart Huckabees comes from its genuine spontaneity, so a rundown of what’s what wouldn’t benefit anyone involved. Suffice it to say; it’s wildly original, frequently hilarious and unmistakably philosophical. Throw Charlie Kaufman and Wes Anderson in a blender, you’ll end up with a very bloodied David O. Russel and his impulsive little I Heart Huckabees.
Ah! My beautiful face!
Director and co-screenwriter David Russel has done something different. Instead of merely posing existential questions, providing food-for-thought or alluding to the meaning of life, which is what an infinite number of writers seem to attempt to do, Russel has had a stab at solving the puzzle. And, along the way, has shown us just how useful (or relevant) the searching for answers is. From a clear existentialist background, laced with post modern humanism, Russel looks for answers in people and the universe. His two ‘existential detectives’ (played by Hoffman and Tomlin) study their subject, and work out what it is that they’re missing, and attempt to enlighten them into the true nature of the world and its inhabitants. Along the way, we meet nihilistic French philosopher Caterine Vauban (played by Huppert) who throws doubt over the upbeat values of the detectives, as well as their ‘blanket’ theory. All the while, Russel weaves this philosophical debate through some very funny dialogue and visual technique.
Already considering the subject matter, this film has alienated a wide group of society who remain blissful in their naivety, not delving into issues pertaining to the existential at a conscious level. I’m not saying I Heart Huckabees is mandatory viewing for ‘lost-souls’, merely the fact that it’s best to come in with an interest and slight understanding into philosophy. This is a film that requires active involvement to be rewarding. If you’re not prepared to focus for the duration, it’s best to leave in the early stages. As Russel quotes in the audio commentary; “you’re one following the film, but not completely getting all of it.” All characters involved move through a journey of sorts, that is driven by highly pointed dialogue, but is heavily implied, rather than explicitly referenced. The end of the film leaves its audience to then think about where it has taken its characters, as the denouement alludes to but doesn’t define the conclusion of their search. To quote a fellow fan of the film; “you’ve got to work to enjoy it.”
Russel’s direction is fantastic, taking his already very bizarre screenplay to the next level with some fantastic visual techniques and a brilliant control over his cast. The level of raw energy within the film lays tribute to Russel’s fast-paced direction, which some have criticised, but few have yet to admire. He is similar to the likes of Wes Anderson, who takes a name-filled cast and turns them into a smooth running ensemble. I Heart Huckabees is the dire opposite to something like Lost in Translation, with little subtlety and a hell of a lot of dialogue! The film is intentionally melodramatic and often overblown, emphasising the disposition of the characters or the situation. Undoubtedly, many have been turned off by Russel’s inability to restrain a scene to something conventional. However for those who enjoy something left-field, with an lively punch, I Heart Huckabees is sure to impress.
A tree-planting ceremony in the middle of a carpark will always turn heads...
With only a fleeting mention of the cast earlier, I must emphasise that indeed, Russel’s cast are fantastic. Featuring some of the best ensemble acting to be found in recent years; the likes of the young Jason Schwartzman and Mark Wahlberg combine with old-timers Dustin Hoffman and Isabelle Huppert with perfect chemistry and charisma. Unfortunately, the prolific British Jude Law fails with his attempts at a genuine American accent on a number of occasions, which throws a bit of a cloud over his performance. Why is character wasn’t rewritten as British, to save the terrible accent, is unbeknownst to me. The film contains so many very unique characters that are supported very capably by some of the best actors on offer.
Special mention must be made to Jon Brion’s fantastic score, reminiscent of that found in P.T. Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love. It is diverse, and perfectly suited to the film at hand. It is neither intrusive nor forgotten, a score that is a beacon of Brion’s excellent talent and versatility. Throughout 2004 he’s composed a range of great music for the excellent Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and now I Heart Huckabees, so we all hope he’ll keep it up!
As mentioned earlier, this certainly isn’t a film for everyone. It requires active involvement for thorough satisfaction, and general interest in the subject at hand. If quirky and surreal are what you look for in a film, then this may well be a new favourite. But, don’t expect anything too realistic. This is blissful, contrived and melodramatic; but always intelligent and stimulating.
Fox have done a brilliant job with this transfer. There are a wide range of often very bold colours featured throughout I Heart Huckabees, this transfer capturing them all in outstanding clarity. Strong blacks also remain solid throughout. Tiny, intricate detail is never missed, thankfully, as all lines and form are exceptionally clear and free of any blur or softening.
Don't worry, there's no sugar!!!
Some very mild aliasing appears in a few scenes, which is neither noticeable nor distracting. The transfer is completely free of any film artefacts or evidence of print damage. A smooth layer change will also remain unnoticeable.
Alongside Fox’s excellent video transfer is an impressive Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack.
This film contains lots of heavy dialogue, which is thankfully reproduced in great clarity and depth. Most dialogue floats between the left, centre and right speakers throughout the film, with sparing use made of the surround channels for the films dialogue. Jon Brion’s fantastic score often fills all six channels, creating an incredibly immersive experience indeed. Special sound effects frequently make full use of the rear speakers, adding a great touch to the film.
While this isn’t a soundtrack you’d use to test out your home theatre, with its limited use of surrounds and being heavily dialogue-driven, it is certainly perfectly adequate and enjoyable to listen to.
This has to be one of the most well-packed single disc releases I’ve come across in some time. A wide range of extra material is available, all of which is worthwhile, interesting and informative.
"Being a model can be so... emotional!"
Not one, but two audio commentaries find their way onto this disc. The first, from director/co-screenwriter David O. Russel provides an interesting and informative look at the film, delving into the origins of characters and situations, as well as some extra meaning he had behind certain scenes or pieces of dialogue. For those that remain a tad perplexed following the film, or those what want a little bit more into the concepts presented, this commentary is definitely worth a listen. The second, also featuring David O. Russel, but now with added cast members Jason Shwartzman, Mark Wahlberg and Naomi Watts is far more relaxed and easy to listen to. It seems everyone has had an awesome amount of fun making the film, reflected in the commentary as well as in a stack of other extra-features. Both commentaries are excellent, and worth a listen. With infrequent pauses, and always interesting content, they’ll prove very entertaining.
The I Heart Huckabeesproduction documentary (34:40) features a stack of interviews and behind the scenes footage, genuinely interesting and far better than most propagandist making-of messes. Director David O. Russel and his entire cast seem to have loved the experience of the film, with much admiration and respect coming from the cast and crew towards their benevolent director. We have four deleted scenes (17:54) that often overlap with those featured in the film, are featured with optional English subtitles. Unfortunately no commentary supplements these scenes. There are also five sets of hilarious outtakes (3:17) of many cast members missing a line or laughing out of cue. A well edited, music-video style clip of cast and crew members having fun throughout production called ‘miscellaneous things people do’ (4:30) finds its way onto the disc, proving to be entertaining.
Some quite pointed, some very funny and some informative little pieces find their way into the ‘infomercials, commercials & psas’ section; including a TV-spots for the Huckabees corporation, an infomercial for the existential detective service featured throughout the film, as well as a behind the scenes with composer Jon Brion. To round the disc off is a music-video for Brion’s ‘Knock Yourself Out’ song, originally written for the film.
All extra material contains English subtitles, but is not 16:9 enhanced.
Oh I'm a firefighter on a bicycle!
Without a doubt, this is one of the best single-disc releases to grace Australian shores in quite some time. A brilliantly clear and vibrant video transfer, alongside an immersive Dolby 5.1 track, as well as two audio commentaries and a stack of worthwhile extra features makes one great disc. Fans of the film will be delighted, and hopefully won’t feel disappointed that we missed out on the 3-disc American release.
If films like Being John Malkovich or the recent Garden State are among your favourites, I encourage you to have a look at I Heart Huckabees.