tek's rating: ¾

I ♥ Huckabees (R)
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I wanted to see this movie, because it involves "existential detectives," a concept which reminded me of Douglas Adams' "Dirk Gently" books (though I don't really remember much of anything about those books, so I'll have to read them again someday). Anyway I'll tell you up front that it's a weird movie (hence my including it in the weird section of my movie reviews)... which is something you'd expect from existentialism. Though sadly, I've never really studied actual existentialism. I did take a philosophy class in college, but I don't remember much of anything about it. Someday I'd really love to study all different sorts of philosophy, because it's something that fascinates me, at least in theory. I'm also fond of surrealism and such. In fact, while I suspect most viewers would find this movie too strange to really enjoy, personally I didn't find it quite strange enough. There were, I felt, barely hints at the possible depths of... you know, really sort of digging into the nature of reality, thereby turning what we perceive as reality inside out. (There are a few visual effects to that end, but they're fairly minor compared to what I would've liked to see.) The way everyone thinks and speaks and acts, there's something about it all that's kind of abnormal, particularly the detectives themselves. However, there's also a relatively firm basis in reality. Which I guess is good, because as much as I'd like a truly metaphysical head trip, that's just not going to happen in real life no matter how much abstract philosophizing you engage in (unless perhaps you take psychedelic drugs or something.) Anyway, aside from all that, my lack of knowledge of actual existentialism precludes me from knowing how close or far the movie comes from the ideas set forth by actual philosophers. But whatever. It was fun to watch, and the kind of thing that makes me want to be a part of such an absurdist world, just for a little while.

Now, as for the plot... there's this guy named Albert Markovski (played by Jason Schwartzman), who is the director of the local chapter of an environmental organization called Open Spaces Coalition. He's currently trying to preserve a marsh and forest, which a major chain of stores called Huckabees wants to destroy in order to put up a new store. Albert doesn't have much success, because his methods are so low-key... he mainly seems to write poetry about it. Not very good poetry. But there's an executive from Huckabees named Brad Stand (Jude Law), who convinced Albert to let him work with Open Spaces. It turns out his methods for trying to save the environment are quite different than Albert's, so there's some conflict between them, and Albert also fears that Brad will replace him as head of the chapter. None of this, however, is what prompts Albert to hire the existential detectives.

We learn that he had learned of their existence by coincidentally finding their business card. This leads him to the offices of Bernard and Vivian Jaffe (Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin). What he wants them to investigate is just why he has recently crossed paths with the same stranger three times. He thinks there must be some deep significance behind this coincidence (though why he thinks this, I have no idea). Anyway, they take the case, but Albert has to sign a contract which gives them full access to every aspect of his life. So Vivian will follow him around, jotting down notes on absolutely everything he does, as well as on everything the people who are involved in his life do. Bernard's part of the investigation is the more obviously existential part, explaining to Albert that everyone and everything in the universe is connected. And teaches him a technique of sensory deprivation and imagination, which I wished would've gone further than it did. There were other steps in the process which were alluded to, but which they never actually got around to, as far as I could tell. Eventually, they also introduce him to a firefighter named Tommy Corn (Mark Wahlberg), who is supposed to be his "Other," a term which is never really explained to any satisfying degree. It's just kind of like a buddy system, to help them... well, I think with part of the process that, like I said, never even happened. Oh, I should also say that the Jaffes didn't seem to be interested in investigating the reason Albert actually hired them, instead focusing more on his problems with Brad. Though even if there may not have been any clear resolution about the coincidence Albert was interested in, it would eventually lead to some seemingly unrelated insight about his past.

Anyway, Tommy's wife had recently left him, and took their daughter with him, because she was fed up with Tommy thinking about all this existential stuff instead of focusing on real life. Also, he had an extreme obsession with the idea of petroleum being evil. And he'd been reading a book by a French woman named Caterine Vauban (Isabelle Huppert), who was a rival of the Jaffes. I guess you could say she was also an existential detective, but her fundamental beliefs about the nature of the universe were the exact opposite of the Jaffes'. And eventually, Albert and Tommy both reject the Jaffes and start allowing Caterine to use her methods to help them. Meanwhile, Brad had hired the Jaffes for his own reason... which wasn't what he claimed, but of course they ultimately did whatever they felt was right for his case. Those two... I don't think they ever pay any mind to why they're hired, but instead just consider the case to be... whatever they feel it is. And their investigation of Brad's reality leads them to influence the thinking of his girlfriend, Dawn Campbell (Naomi Watts), a model who was the voice and face of Huckabees in all its ads.

Um... so I don't know what else to say about plot. That's enough. I don't want to actually spoil anything. It's just all kind of weird and surreal in a way, kind of crazy. But... things turn out good in the end. I guess. And it was definitely an interesting film, whether or not it made any sense. Which it probably did, in the end. Sort of. Um... also I should say I liked the whole cast, and the score. I do wish the story could've been better, and weirder, as I said, but... even so, I definitely liked it. Oh, and it was kind of funny. In an absurdist kinda way. Definitely, the kind of funny where I almost forget that it's a comedy.


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