Aviva is thirteen, awkward and sensitive. Her mother Joyce is warm and loving, as is her father, Steve, a regular guy who does have a fierce temper from time to time. The film revolves around her family, friends and neighbors.
Jennifer Jason Leigh,
Stephen Adly Guirgis
A woman breaks up with her boyfriend, he thinks it's because he's fat. A man is unable to tell her next door neighbor he finds her sexually attractive. An old couple wants to split up, but they don't want to get a divorce. A therapist masturbates to teen magazines. An 11 year old kid is insecure about the fact that he hasn't cum yet. Office workers try to recall the face of a coworker who recently died. A woman is sure she has everything she could ever want. The lives of these individuals intertwine as they go about their lives in their own unique ways, engaging in acts society as a whole might find disturbing in a desperate search for human connection. Written by
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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