Based on the true childhood experiences of Noah Baumbach and his brother, The Squid and the Whale tells the touching story of two young boys dealing with their parents' divorce in Brooklyn in the 1980s.
When a young woman rejects her current overweight suitor in a restaurant, he unexpectedly places a curse on her. The film then moves on to her sisters. One is a happily married woman with a psychiatrist husband and three kids. Unfortunately the husband develops an unnatural fascination for his 11 year old son's male classmates, fantasizes about mass killing in a park, and masturbates to teen magazines. One of his patients has an unrequited fascination for the third sister. Meanwhile the apparently stable 40 year marriage of the sister's parents suddenly unravels when he decides he has had enough and wants to live a hermit's life in Florida. Obviously, the whole movie is slightly warped in its viewpoint and certainly presents abnormal relationships among all of its parties. Written by
John Sacksteder <email@example.com>
There are only a handful of films that have a distinct polarizing affect on the audience--A Clockwork Orange, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, and I would even lump in American Beauty--these are movies you either get, or you don't. And if you don't get it, you will hate it. Open minded viewers need only apply, and that's certainly the case with "Happiness." I remember leaving the theater absolutely shocked, and not just because of the events on screen. I was shocked that I found the movie so intelligent and oddly entertaining. The actors surely must have felt that, after reading the screenplay. And there are some big actors in this--veterans like Ben Gazzara, Louise Lasser, Elizabeth Ashley, mixing with new talent like Philip Seymour Hoffman, Camryn Manheim, Dylan Baker, Lara Flynn Boyle, etc.
The subject matter is truly unsettling--a parental figure, respected in his community, does some horrible things, and this is the main reason why so many people have a hard time with this movie. Did this material really need to be examined in modern cinema? Well, yes--in the same way that David Lynch had to explore it in Blue Velvet. Happiness is a masterpiece of irony (even in the title), and finds humor in the most unusual and downright bizarre circumstances. You will not see another movie like it. Guaranteed. And fair warning--you could very well despise it. And it's probably a fair estimate that its writer/director, Todd Solondz, doesn't give a damn.
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