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A movie directed by Todd Solondz

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  • Mar 20, 2003
Man, this is difficult, difficult movie!! It's packed full of thoroughly unlikeable characters. And they do some awfully uncomfortable things.

The actors are all outstanding. Phillip Seymour Hoffman plays a loser (what a stretch!!) who starts making obscene phone calls to his next door neighbor (Lara Flynn Boyle), who enjoys them. What happens when they meet? That's just one sample of the kind of interactions you might see in this movie. It plays a little like MAGNOLIA, but without much of the hopeful tone that movie ends with.

But the source of all the controversy in this movie is the character played by the brave, brilliant Dylan Baker. He plays a totally milquetoast, average, middle-class father. Yet his character is also a child-molester. I wouldn't say his character is presented sympathetically, but he isn't always shown as just a monster either. There's one scene, wherein his son has just discovered his beloved father's secret and questions him in detail about his twisted desires. The scene is hands-down the most uncomfortable thing I've ever watched. I was literally squirming...it is so shocking, so obscene and so terribly, terribly sad. In two minutes, we see how several lives are shattered forever.

Baker's performance should have been nominated for an Oscar, but this would have required too much bravery on the part of the selection commmittee.

Do I recommend the film? Well, if you aren't afraid to have your limits tested, absolutely. It has a lot to say, not just about child molestation. It's well-acted and written, and has many very funny moments too (one character to another: "I'm not laughing at you, I'm laughing with you." to which the response is: "I'm not laughing." It's from the creator of WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE, so you know it's going to be unconventional. But it is exciting filmmaking. ABSOLUTELY KEEP THE KIDS AWAY FROM IT!

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More Happiness (1998 movie) reviews
review by . July 18, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
**** out of ****     Denied its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, and the subject of much post-criticism and controversy around the time of its release, you can take one good glance at Todd Solondz's "Happiness" and see what all the goddamn commotion is about. It is amongst one of the most difficult, disturbing films I've seen; and it tackles some of the ickiest and oddest subjects that most films don't care to touch. Let's just say that if you're sensitive to the graphic …
review by . September 03, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: solid cast delivery, story line     Cons: none     The Bottom Line: "Happiness  How did you get to be happiness?  How did you get to find love, real love?"  ~ Goldfrapp     Totally unlike 13 Conversations ..., I found this movie, Happiness, quite a bit more interesting in their search for happiness. Certainly it was dark in many aspects, but to let that overshadow the entire movie really undermines the story. …
review by . December 10, 2007
This film is indeed marvelous. Todd Solondz combines really absurd situations and embarrassing moments -some of which most of us do encounter in daily life and some we hopefully won't- with serious issues. Thus, this film provides not only a very high degree of entertainment -Solondz' sense for irony is exceptional-, it gives you a critical view on society without judging or condemning or forcing you to think one way or the other. I am genuinely impressed by Happiness and its cast full of great …
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I've got my own site, www.afilmcritic.com, on which I'm posting my reviews. I am 46 years old, married 25 years, two kids (23 & 18) and currently work in accounting/finance. I spent 15 years … more
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Building on the darkly comic angst of WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE, Todd Solondz's HAPPINESS conveys suburban desperation and frustration on a larger scale than his previous film. The ensemble cast of characters centers around the lives of three sisters: Joy (Jane Adams), an awkward, naive, and unlucky musician; Helen (Lara Flynn Boyle), a beautiful, self-obsessed writer; and Trish (Cynthia Stevenson), a conservative housewife who is married to Bill (Dylan Baker), a psychiatrist harboring an unhealthy fascination for young boys. Other dysfunctional characters include the sisters' unhappy parents, Lenny and Mona Jordan (Ben Gazzara and Louise Lasser), and the lonely, sex-obsessed Allen (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who lives next to Helen and goes to Bill for therapy. <br> <br> At once both scathingly funny and shockingly bleak, HAPPINESS addresses subjects that most films are afraid to touch, including pedophilia and masturbation. Unapologetic and unflinching, Solondz's film features bold performances from the...
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Director: Todd Solondz
Release Date: 1998
MPAA Rating: Unrated
DVD Release Date: April 27, 1999
Runtime: 2hr 19min
Studio: Lions Gate
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