Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Don't see this movie of the week:

I don’t like this movie.

I don’t want to recommend this movie. But it's next on my list to recommend, and I must have had a good reason to put it there at the time, but for the life of me, I can't remember why. Although it’s well made, and well written, and well acted, with a marvelous cast, I can’t find anything that I like about it, at least nothing that I can put my finger on. So, maybe if I tell you what I don’t like about it, it’ll give me time to think of something positive.

Things that I don’t like about this movie:

  1. No likable characters: Everyone in this story is a total pathetic loser. You can’t identify with anyone (at least I hope you can’t identify with anyone). If all the main characters died halfway through, you’d say, “Well at least that was something.”
  2. None of the main characters die in this film. You want them to, but they don’t.
  3. They refer to this movie as “a black comedy”. If you laugh anytime during this movie, you should have your moral fabric analyzed, and then begin therapy every Tuesday and Thursday - to start.
  4. I suppose the term "black comedy" could possibly apply, however - there are shades of black that make the underside of a rock look like fireworks on the sun.
  5. Some films may have one or two uncomfortable moments, where you squirm through an uncomfortable situation and then it gets resolved and then you feel better. This film has 141 minutes of squirming. I think it has more squirming than the annual Squirm-festival in Munich. It has more squirms than the movie Squirm, about the attack of killer worms. It almost has as much squirming as “Squirm – The Musical”- and that’s a lot of squirming!
  6. This is one of the most polarizing films that you are likely to see. You will either really love it and say that FranksFilms is a genius for choosing such an erudite film (unlikely), or you will hate it so much that you will never read another recommendation from me again. So, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
  7. This is not a gross out slasher film. It’s not scary, there’s no explicit violence, and no explicit sex. By the time this movie is over, if you make it that far, you’ll wish there was.
  8. Ordinary people, perhaps your next door neighbors, sometimes do horribly un-ordinary things. You don’t often see that in a movie. There’s probably a reason for that. People don’t want to think about that kind of stuff.
  9. Some of the material in the story is pretty difficult and will offend a lot of people. Actually, that’s not so bad. Hat’s off to Todd Solondz for having some balls.
  10. This movie pisses me off………… Oh yeah! Now I remember. That’s why I’m recommending it. I saw it about 8 years ago, and it’s still pissing me off. Now that’s real staying power.

Director Todd Solondz knows how to push peoples’ buttons. He knows exactly where peoples’ comfort zones are and is definitely not afraid to go way outside of them. This is perhaps the best and most controversial of his films which include Palindromes, Welcome to the Dollhouse, and Storytelling. The film showcases the dark underbelly of suburban life in a way that I’ve never seen before or since.

The story centers around three sisters, each more miserable than the other. One, the youngest, who can’t keep a boyfriend and can’t decide what to do with her life, is put down and made fun of by her older sisters. The middle sister is a successful writer - except that she’s not happy because she has never experienced the things she writes about. Her older sister puts her down because neither of the two have the “perfect” family and life that she has. She has the perfect doctor husband, a perfect son, and a perfect home in the perfect neighborhood. What she doesn’t realize is that she is perfectly clueless about how un-perfect her life truly is. All the other characters in the film orbit these three. The cast is superb. Philip Seymour Hoffman is great as a next door neighbor with a secret (he likes to make obscene phone calls – oh, don’t worry, you find this out at the start of the story. It’s just a secret to the rest of the characters). Ben Gazzara is great as the father who is divorcing his wife after a zillion years for no other reason than he wants some time to be alone. With this crowd, I can’t blame him.

This is not an easy movie to watch, but if you do, you’ll discover that this is some of the most honest portrayal of real people (real miserable people) in search of happiness that you will ever see in film. You may want to watch it alone, and the decide weather you want anyone else you know watch it with you.

I mentioned earlier that it was a dark comedy. So the question comes up – is it funny? I hate to admit this but – yes. There were times (between all that squirming) that I did laugh. I’m not sure why, but I did.

The critics loved this film, scoring an 82% on the tomatometer. Furthermore, it appears in Steven Jay Schneider's book, “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”. How far down the list have you gotten? Film critic Roger Ebert has published a particularly good review of the film. You can read it here.

As the second movie in a truly “unique”, black comedy double feature, you can pair HAPPINESS with The Happiness of the Katakuris. You’ll be glad you did.

So there you go. If you dare – rent and watch HAPPINESS, then send me all the hate mail you want, I don’t care. I have a DELETE button.

Enjoy - (or don’t)


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