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Happiness: Signature Series

Three sisters and the people who play parts in their miserable lives conspire against their own happiness by indulging in reckless acts of emotional and sexual gratification. The most recent film from deeply disturbed auteur Todd Solondz (Welcome to the Dollhouse), Happiness has offended, disgusted, and psychologically scarred a majority of its audience, including those who love it. Its subject matter ranges from broken hearts to masturbation to paedophelia, and it's all approached with an unprecedented mixture of cynicism, sensitivity, sarcasm, and empathy. Although Happiness dwells extravagantly on misery and perversion, great credit must be given to the entire cast, who tackle their often-unpleasant characters with complete objectivity and empathy — and especially Dylan Baker, who, in a heartbreaking performance, plays a loving father who is compelled to rape his young son's friends. Perhaps what disturbs audiences of this film the most is how human and even sometimes likable these creepy, pathetic people are. It may revolt you to feel for a paedophile, but such conflicts are the mark of great art. And Solondz, though hilariously cruel at times, wraps it all up with a certain (although twisted) glimmer of hope. Happiness may not be a feel-good favorite you excitedly revisit every couple of months or years or lifetimes, but it will stick with you whether you like it or not. Lions Gate's Happiness: Signature Series is a re-release of the original Trimark disc with a 1.85:1 widescreen transfer and 2.0 Dolby Surround. Extras include a trailer and textual supplements, while the menu is strikingly bright and kitschy. Keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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