I ♥ Huckabees
At a spiritual crossroads, environmental activist Albert Markovski (Jason Schwartzman) finds himself going to existential detectives to try and unravel a coincidence, but detectives Bernard (Dustin Hoffman) and Vivian (Lily Tomlin) see that Albert is not just after understanding a coincidence, but needs to dissect himself to understand his role in the universe. Many of his problems revolve around his antagonistic relationship with Brad Stand (Jude Law), an executive at the Wal-Mart-ish Huckabees corporation, whom he's partnered with to help save a marsh. Brad, however, has seized the project to help Huckabees' corporate reputation, and the further he gets involved the more he takes the project away from Albert. Albert resents this, and his ire is raised when Brad signs up with Bernard and Vivian to get at the bottom of his existence. At Vivian's insistence, Albert gets paired up with fireman Tommy Corn (Mark Wahlberg), who's struggling with America's reliance on petroleum products and the destructive impact of oil (which ties the film into the events of 9/11, although such is never dwelled on), and who is now drawn to "the dark side" of nihilist Caterine Vauban's (Isabelle Huppert) philosophy, which also becomes appealing to Albert when he's kicked out of his own environmental group in favor of Brad. But Brad's investigation which he started just to one-up Albert ruins his relationship with Huckabees' public face, model Dawn Campbell (Naomi Watts), who also gets sucked into questioning of her own existence as an image, and finally unravels Brad's superficial exterior. If it all sounds heady and pretentious, it might be, but David O. Russell's I ♥ Huckabees (2004) is also a slapstick comedy that tries to delve into existential philosophies and Zen thinking without becoming a ponderous, navel-gazing affair. And if a viewer is open to an exploration of theories of the meaning of life that don't involve a theological bent (God is never a factor in the film), then this light, amusing riff on the nature of being is a masterpiece. As a director, Russell has grown with each new project he's taken on, and with Huckabees there's a sense of confidence and bravado that showcases a voice in full bloom, one that has a command of technique at the service of the material (representations of the Id and the state of connectedness are done in a technically ingenious and perfectly cinematic way). On the commentary track, Russell speaks of his friendship with Wahlberg, and the former rapper should be lucky he has such friends; his Tommy Corn is the best role of his career, tragic but touching and funny, he's a slightly enlightened naïf. But the film is well cast all around, with Law and Watts playing and playing against their attractive veneers, and ace comic performances by veterans Tomlin and Hoffman. It's also worth noting that I ♥ Huckabees was scored by Jon Brion, and between this and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), he's become one of the best working composers, always likely to score something smart and distinctive. Fox Searchlight presents I ♥ Huckabees in both anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) and pan-and-scan transfers with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Two DVDs have been released, the first a single-disc with the only supplements being two audio commentaries, the first with director Russell, the second with Russell, Schwartzman, Wahlberg and Watts. The two-disc set includes the commentaries along with a "making-of" featurette, a interview from "The Charlie Rose Show," 22 extended and deleted scenes, five outtakes, six faux PSA's for the environmental group in the film ("Open Spaces"), a photo montage, the infomercial for the existential detective agency, along with a "making-of" and deleted footage from it, commercials, and trailers. Single keep-case, or dual-DVD slimline keep-case.