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A movie directed by Todd Solondz

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The Banality of Perversion & Dysfunction, middle-America style

  • Dec 10, 2007
  • by
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 actors.

It is littered with an assortment of characters that seem to have sexual fetishes and perversions of some sort. Solondz explores some dark subjects and you would think this would make the film harsh and difficult to watch, but it holds your attention throughout mainly because of the excellent performances on show, especially from Dylan Baker as a respected doctor who holds a terrible secret, and Philip Seymour Hoffman as an obscene phone-caller. He is so incredibly versatile - he successfully made my skin crawl here. Before I even go further the very first scene is probably the best work John Lovitz has ever done. This movie looks dead on at some of the most awkward and horrific things in American culture, but never ever ever tells you or suggests to you what you should think or feel, the way most films do. John's Speech will blow you away. Jane Adams, who has a calamitous love life and plays the social reject of three dysfunctional sisters, does a wonderful job in role her facial expressions will get you going. My personal favorite was Cynthia Stevenson as one of those typical housewives with 2.5 kids and a carpool. Her character was so obnoxious, superficial and condescending - she clearly did a wonderful job. I was also a huge fan of Camryn Manheim (what a twist!), Lara Flynn Boyle (she gives new meaning to the role of the phony snob), Elizabeth Ashley, and Molly Shannon's cameo which was HYSTERICAL. And the child actors...simply brilliant and such difficult material. The film's most powerful and emotional scene is towards the end when Baker's character has a trying conversation with his son.

I think it is fair to say that anyone watching this film can identify with at LEAST one of the so-called 'sicknesses' of the characters, therefore, it is the look in to the dark recesses of their own minds that makes them so uncomfortable. The world is a messed up place, and we all contribute to that in our own fashion, some more than others, but nevertheless, we all do, because our lives all clash with one another at some point. The best we can do is to face it and deal with it, not act as though we are separate from it! I suppose what I am trying to say is that this work is an important, unflinching look at the REAL reality in this world and, like it or not, it does affect you in one way or another, so you might as well face up to it by identifying with this film!

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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 . March 20, 2003
posted in Movie Hype
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 …
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About this movie


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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