Happiness 1998 Movie Scene Lara Flynn Boyle as Helen Jordan and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Allen riding in an elevator

Happiness [1998]

Happiness is a seriously fucked up movie and I love it. It explores a lot of issues that movies usually avoid because of commercial viability. However, that’s not the only reason why there aren’t more movies dealing with strange sexual urges, alienation, or midlife crises. It’s difficult to talk about these things without coming off as pretentious or preachy. Something that this movie surely is not. Although it does get a bit depressive but sometimes you just need to watch something like this to get a better perspective. It’s best that you put it on your watch list and just play it when you’re ready.

I would say that the main theme that binds all the stories here is human interaction. Something we’re rapidly losing in this technological world. Although I have to admit that I don’t like people in general. I just find these personality jerking interactions tedious and unnecessary. I better stop myself now before this review turns into a rant of how most people are unable to escape the definitions of themselves from their teens. In Happiness, we follow the lives of three Jordan sisters and their extended family. Each of them has a different and sometimes difficult story to tell.

Moving on, I have to say that I truly enjoyed the black humor here. It’s delectably nihilistic and absurd, just the way I like it. Sometimes watching these slow-paced movies turns out to be the right decision and I urge you to check this one out. Sure, some of the scenes are really uncomfortable but this is how real life works. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable and sometimes it’s funny. Just try not to take it too seriously and you should be fine. It feels like some sort of really stylish documentary, allowing us to see and hear things that are usually kept quiet.

Of course, the acting is top-notch, a natural consequence of a cast as good as this one. I mean, we’ve got Jon Lovitz doing what he does best in the freaking opening scene. However, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Dylan Baker stand out with their honest and breathtaking performances. And that’s the thing about Happiness, it’s just so fucking honest. It makes other movies seem so clean and safe that it will take a while for you to take them seriously again.

Characters are well-developed and dialogue funny, raw, and realistic. I really can’t recommend this movie enough. I managed to watch it twice and both times it was a profound and thought-provoking experience. It reminds me of European cinema, especially Danish movies like Festen or In A Better World. I guess American Beauty would be the most famous movie I can compare it to. 

Director: Todd Solondz

Writer: Todd Solondz

Cast: Jane Adams, Jon Lovitz, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Dylan Baker, Lara Flynn Boyle, Justin Elvin, Gerry Becker

Fun Stuff: Director Cameo: [Todd Solondz] as the doorman in Allen, Helen, and Kristina’s building.


IMDb Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0147612/

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