More threads by Daniel E.

Daniel E.
On October 1st, the comedy film "I Heart Huckabees" will be released to "select" theaters. The film centers around two detectives who find meaning in life for their clients. I am looking forward to watching it since critics are already saying it is excellent comedy.

More info:
This ensemble comedy is about a married couple, the Jaffes (Hoffman, Tomlin), who work as detectives, helping people solve existential crises in their lives. For those not familiar with the philosophy-based term of "existential crisis", some examples of such a crises would be a "mid-life crisis", a "what am I doing with my life?" sort of hang up, "my life has been a mistake", "my whole life is a joke", etc. Their first client in this movie is Albert Markovski (Schwartzman), who is experiencing angst because of his position at Huckabee's, a popular chain of retail stores. Investigating his workplace, the Jaffes take on one of Albert's coworkers, Brad Stand (Law) as a client as well, which leads them to investigate his girlfriend, Dawn Campbell (Watts), who is the spokesmodel in the Huckabees TV commercials. Meanwhile, Albert teams up with an existential firefighter (Wahlberg) and a French radical (Huppert) out of frustration with the idea that the Jaffes are helping the very man who seems to be part of Albert's existential crisis.

Daniel E.
I saw this movie on DVD a month ago. It was great and much better than I expected after reading critical reviews. A couple points made by the movie:

- Meditation as "dismantling": Dustin Hoffman's character is an existential detective who encourages his patients to "dismantle" (meditiate) every day. He teaches each client to meditate by making sure they can't see and telling them to let go of their identity, including what country they are from, what economy they are living in, etc. (Hoffman's character recommends an eye mask or simply closing one's eyes for mediting at home.)

- The theme of the movie is: "No magic, no manure." The protagonist in the movie, Hoffman's character, is like a zen monk and emphasizes that everything is meaningful and interconnected. The antagonist in the movie is a French nihilist who sees life as a meaningless hell. According to the movie, both positions on the meaning of life play on each other and are two sides of the same coin. In the original script, the back story of the movie is that Hoffman's character and the female French existentialist used to have some relationship in the past.

Comedy-wise, the movie is pretty funny with great actors like Lily Tomlin, Dustin Hoffman, and Mark Wahlberg, who plays a depressed fireman that isn't interested in extinguishing fires.

just mary

Thanks Daniel!

I've been wanting to see that movie but it kept slipping my mind since I didn't know too much about it. I'll definitely be renting it soon.

Thanks again.

Daniel E.
The movie is one of those love-it-or-hate-it films. The plot is rather secondary to the movie except for seeing how the characters develop. Some lines in the movie that are meant to be funny aren't, but there are some funny bits and it is funny to see how each side (the existential detectives and the French nihilist) takes themselves so seriously.

An interview with Dustin Hoffman & Lilly Tomlin on some of the movie's ideas:

Let's get metaphysical
Redlands Daily Facts, Los Angeles Newspaper Group

Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin ponder life in L.A., the human condition and their quirky new movie

By Glenn Whipp
Film Writer

When you're looking to hire an existential detective, you want to go with experience.
At least, David O. Russell did. The whacked-out filmmaker's latest movie, "I (Heart) Huckabees," sports several characters seeking answers to life's Big Questions. Not an easy proposition, so they hire a nutty husband-and-wife investigating team, played by Hollywood vets Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin, to follow them around and help them find the meaning of existence.

"Or what we call existence," Hoffman corrects. "Or something like that. I don't know. It's kind of strange, isn't it?"

You could say that. The film has received equal measures of praise and criticism, but the teaming of Tomlin and Hoffman has won across-the-board raves.

"They're intense, smart and have huge hearts," Russell says. "I think they make a great couple."

We sat down with Hoffman, 67, and Tomlin, 65, recently to bandy about the meaning of life, whether or not the universe has it in for us and why a Horny Devil is always a good solution (or distraction) from life's little disappointments..

Q: To prepare for this movie, Mark Wahlberg went into therapy. Did making the "Huckabees" send either of you to a psychologist?.

HOFFMAN: I've already been. I was in therapy before Mark Wahlberg was born..

TOMLIN: Everything in the movie made perfect sense to me. To me, it represents the way things are, the randomness, the connectedness, the strange beauty of life..

Q: Would you want someone following you around all the time?.

HOFFMAN: Don't ask an actor. We always want an audience. "I'm going to the bathroom! I'm taking a shower! Watch me!".

Q: Isabelle Huppert's character, the French nihilist, says, "Once you realize the universe sucks, you have nothing to lose." True or false?.

HOFFMAN: Yes, yes. That's absolutely true. My friend (the playwright) Murray Schisgal said it differently years ago: "Once you realize you're (screwed), you can get on with it.".

TOMLIN: But that's different. If you think the universe sucks too much, you're going to lose your soul..

HOFFMAN: That's true. But the idea being, "There's no way out of this. There's no way away from the randomness of life." You can have the greatest diet in the world and keep your blood pressure down and still get hit by a brick..

TOMLIN: You can say that, but what about all the synchronicity that's happened? You just talked to a guy who grew up with your aunt and your aunt gave him his first pencil to write or something like that. It's not all random. There's a lot of connections..

HOFFMAN: But the thing that you were hitting on and I don't quite understand it - and I've lived long enough to understand it, but I don't - is this notion of why we are disappointed as much as we are on a day-to-day basis? Why? Why? Why?

One of the ways you can tell it, particularly in Los Angeles, is whenever the cars are locked in on the freeway, take a look at everybody. There is such dejection. Why? It's not news. It's like that every day. And yet there's such disappointment.

There is so much to live for and we're so (incredibly) lucky to be able to be in this car and be able to listen to Mozart, yet the human condition is to be disappointed if moment-to-moment life doesn't turn out the way we want it to.

That's the motivation behind drugs and alcohol. It's the illusion, "Now, this is the way life should be."

TOMLIN: Humans have always been driven to alter their consciousness. It's kind of like an intimacy, too. Intimacy with yourself. It's being open..

HOFFMAN: A beer does it. If you're ever in Santa Monica, you must go to My Father's Office. They serve the great hamburger, but they have 50 types of beer on the wall..

Q: If we go right now - and I believe we should - what are you getting on tap?.

HOFFMAN: (Without hesitation) A Horny Devil..

Q: Your namesake?.

HOFFMAN: The name did intrigue me. But they told me it has double the amount of alcohol than anything else. Over 10 percent. And I'm telling you, I drank half of that, and I was like "Whoa." You've got to have one Horny Devil..

TOMLIN: In your honor, I will, absolutely..

Q: Dustin, did you have a particular Beatle in mind with that haircut in the film? Given the movie's Eastern mysticism, I was thinking of George..

HOFFMAN: George, absolutely. But it was more of an unconscious thing working, and that is these people are stuck in a time when they first invented themselves..

TOMLIN: You know how in "Jules and Jim," Truffaut used that freeze frame a couple of times where Jeanne Moreau was just kind of laughing? And she was such a romantic figure anyway, so Bohemian and here she has two lovers and they're living in the same house and he would freeze frame her laughing.

So way back when I'd be in a Detroit pizzeria with my friends and you'd see me just stop, freeze frame myself and somehow think they'd identify me with Jeanne Moreau and not notice that I was acting completely irrational.

That's what we're talking about - stuck in a moment..

Q: Here's another philosophical musing from the movie: No manure, no magic. Discuss..

HOFFMAN: No manure? What does that mean to you?.

TOMLIN: Without the suffering and pain and disappointment, there's no joy..

HOFFMAN: If you're afraid to get dirty, you're not going to live..

TOMLIN: Take chances, make mistakes, get messy..

HOFFMAN: He works from a great place, David. We did this infomerical for the movie, and he brought in plates filled with mud and asked us to play with the mud as we're talking. And I told a child therapist, who's a friend of mine, about this saying, "I could almost remember doing this as a kid."

And she says, "Sure. One of the things that kids love about that is that it's one of the first feelings of identity. It makes them feel alive." And it's true. It radiates. You feel it. And now that we're so called grown-ups, there's an aversion. "This is what you want us to do? Mud?".

TOMLIN: Our nails are going to get dirty..

HOFFMAN: Right. But you do it and you wonder why you ever objected to it..

Q: Russell must have a thing about mud. There's that sex scene with Jason Schwartzman and Huppert in the marsh ....

TOMLIN: Oh, I remember first reading the script and seeing that scene and thinking, "Why can't (our characters) have a scene like that?".

HOFFMAN: That wasn't on a set. That was real swamp mud they were drinking and inhaling..

TOMLIN: It was. And they were wiping it on each other..

Q: Sounds like you have a thing about mud..

TOMLIN: Well ....

HOFFMAN: I love that scene. We live in a time when art does not generate the passion that it used to. When Stravinsky first did "Rite of Spring," the audience got up at the end of it and threw chairs at the orchestra. I hope this movie provokes the same kind of reaction..

TOMLIN: If only people could throw mud..
Also, the movie's playful, mostly instrumental soundtrack is loved even by those who hate the movie. Some lyrics from the soundtrack:

"Knock Yourself Out"
by Jon Brion

It’s something unattainable
That you can’t live without
And now the unexplainable
Has you riddled with doubt

Things begin, things decay
And you’ve gotta find a way
To be okay
But it you want to spend the day
Wond’ring what it’s all about
Go and knock yourself out

Why we're put in this mess
Is anybody’s guess
It might be a test or it might not be anything
You need to worry about
But if you’re still in doubt
Go and knock yourself out
"Get What It's About"
by Jon Brion

I may be slower than some folks
But I always make my way
I move forward with my hopes
And I sometimes save the day

Where do I begin?
Cause there’s a whirlpool of information
That you’ve got to sort through
To get to where it’s at

It falls flat and it makes you crazy
But I get the feeling
That I get what it’s about
It’s just a feeling
I can’t really spell it out
I get the feeling
That I get what it’s about

From the bar to the car park
Theories fly about
They fall short for the most part
But I’m not keeping count

And why should I begin?
Cause there’s a whirlpool
Of people who will stop
And they will tell you
The things that you will not
They roll their eyes and they call you crazy

But you get the feeling
That you get what it's about
It’s just a feeling
You can’t really spell it out
You get the feeling
That you get what it’s about

just mary

Hi Daniel,

I loved it, it was great fun. I especially liked the scenes where the characters hit each other in the face with a large, red ball. Great little flick, glad I saw it.

We're all looking for meaning.


Daniel E.

The final idea came to Russell in a dream where "This female detective she was not following me for criminal reasons, but she was following me for spiritual and metaphysical reasons." Russell, who makes a habit of writing his dreams down, knew instantly upon reading his summary of the dream that this was the story he wanted to pursue.

Daniel E.

I Heart Huckabees is a strange little film. It seems to me that many didn’t quite know how to take it. I was drawn to it, personally, due to its philosophical themes (and its great cast), but have talked with others who study philosophy with whom it didn’t land. And, honestly, I don’t know that it did for me, either, the first time. But it stuck in my mind enough that I watched it again.

The thing is that, although the film plays with existentialism, it doesn’t feel that deep. This isn’t a film that calls out for thorough analysis, or might make you want to read Heidegger, so much as it is a comedy. And this is how it should be taken. I didn’t know quite what to make of it on my first viewing, but when I gave it a second—knowing what it was in a meaningful way—I found it to be absolutely hilarious in a distinctive way.

This isn’t the kind of comedy you get elsewhere. It is neither slapstick, nor the kind of humor that plays on awkwardness that has become so common. It is, fundamentally, a comedy about the human condition...
I decided to start watching it. Good to see that the first minute reflects my inner dialogue quite accurately when approaching a stressful situation. :p
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