Cinema Signal:

Existentialism From Dostoevsky to Sartre

. "I Heart Huckabees"

I'm inclined to appreciate anything that brings together a wall-to-wall cast like the one in this philosophical farce, but I couldn't help wishing for something with a little more coherence. Where is Charlie Kaufmann ("Adaptation", "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind") when you need him?

If existentialism was defined by a series of coincidences, then the series of them that has Albert Markovski (Jason Schwartzman) so in need of help may indeed be that definition of a lonely universe. Whether it's a non-sequitir or not, in this activist's over-boiled mind, his chance sightings of an outsized doorman in three places has him questioning his existence. Or, rather, existence itself.

Another choice coincidence leads him to a pair of goof balls operating under the shingle of "Existential Detectives." Just don't call Bernard and Vivian Jaffe (Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin) shrinks or therapists. Their job is to observe their subjects as they live their lives in an attempt to nurture the metaphysical obstructions screwing with their lives. It may be therapy but it has nothing to do with couches or confessions. This is a practice based more on mind abstraction than on emotions.

Sooner than Markovski would wish, the investigation uncovers his displacement at work by fair haired executive Brad Stand (Jude Law) who is taking over as the leader of the advertising firm whose primary client is the Huckabees chain of superstores and whose campaign slogan is "I Heart Huckabees" and whose practices have been injuring the planet. Stand has the inside track, which is only aided an abetted by the fact that he's charming and handsome and lives with the sexy spokesbody... er, person, for the corporation: blonde Dawn (Naomi Watts).

As Stand's inflexible ambition destines Markovski for greater and greater failure and disappointment, and as his imperturbable guides take on Stand, then Dawn as clients, they pair Markovski up with a fireman client, soulsearcher Tommy (Mark Wahlberg) who becomes his alter ego and protector.

Lest we think our existential detectives are one of a kind, their primary competition shows up, seemingly pulled away from some French movie. She is none other than the notorious book writer on the subject and sexy French philosopher Caterine Vauban (Isabelle Huppert) who will not draw the line on how she seduces minds and hearts.

Which brings up the subject of the actors. It's always heartening to see major players glom onto the unusual, risking the effect of unproven material. But, for artists, risk is what it's about. If you asked me to name the most creative male and best female actors around these days, I'd be likely to pick Jude Law and Naomi Watts in their respective gender categories. They established that position in my regard in movies such as "Mullholland Drive" and "21 Grams" for Watts; "The Talented Mr. Ripley" and "The Road to Perdition" for Law. And, here they are working together and breathing creative dimensions and great style into very challenging parts.

Jason Schwartzman is another story altogether. The buzz in the columns is that this well-connected offspring of luminaries is another Dustin Hoffman. So, what do they do? They bring Hoffman in to play against him, as though to put a further spin on the myth. So, I guess I should feel bad that I couldn't make the kind of connection with him that was instant and notorious in Hoffman's work at a similar age. To me, there is a certain boredom factor in this presence on screen, though I acknowledge it may have something to do with the way the part is written.

Somewhere in the melange and despite the good work in it, there's a semi-serious struggle going on between fancy concepts, symbolism galore, and idiocy-inspired camp. If it doesn't drown you in a tidal wave of self-questioning (bordering on the batty), it will spin you around in the clowny vortex of an alternative filmmaking universe. It may not, however, transcend into boxoffice paranormality.

What it is, I know not. But, the talent extravaganza makes it what it is.

Click for full list of movie reviews

                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

The Soundtrack Album


Opinion Section
Comments from readers:
Well written
I've seen the movie and agree with the review
Site rating: 8

Very pleased this review, which provides the backdrop and basics while not giving it all away. The movie, fun and well-paced, smart but not overly winking.

                                                           ~~ Eric S. 

List of reviews:
Release order
Alphabetical order
To Jbmovies
(sample frames from movies photographed
by Jules Brenner)

All Reviews
Books, DVDs, Music, Restaurants

Jason Schwartzman and Jude Law
The struggle for position and influence has its ups and downs
(It never was existential)

Help us to continue
bringing you these reviews...
visit our sponsors