Every human on this planet wants to be happy, but sometimes things don't go according to plan, and this film does an excellent job at illustrating the pain, longings and dreams we all have and go through (altough some people's desires are more weird and sickening than others). In any case, this is one of the best indie flicks I've ever seen. A little draggy here and there, but with characters so addicting, that you're in constant anticipation of what they're gonna do next.
Highly recommended, presuming you can endure the permeating awkwardness!
My main gripe is that there are no shades of meaning. Everyone's "problems" or "pursuits of happiness" are so extreme, except perhaps Billy's. The characters and circumstances seem too cooked for the sake of dysfunctional hip.
Three middle-class New Jersey sisters all have their problems with their families and sex lives.
Different aspects of Todd Solondz's film, 'Happiness', remind one of other movies. For its overall structure and the presence of Philip Seymour Hoffman in the cast, one thinks of Paul Thomas Anderson's 'Magnolia'; the portrait of dysfunctional families in suburbia brings to mind the films of Mike Leigh and Hal Hartley; the (literally) seminal humour is a far stronger version of that in 'There's Something About Mary', or 'American Pie'; while the general comedy of embarrassment, and subject material that includes paedophilia, has parallels in the work of Chris Morris. Of course, when a film reminds one of so many others, that means that either it is hopelessly derivative, or, as is happily the case for this movie, a true original. The films opening credits conclude with the announcement of its title with a splendid comic timing that tells you from the start that the meaning of the word is wholly ironic; and that there'll be no joy for its antonymously-named heroine. The overall effect is over-the-top, but when even supposedly satirical films like 'American Beauty' and 'Donnie Darko' chose to put a certain gloss on their portrait of the American suburbs, a film as brutal as this one serves as a certain refreshing antidote. It's probably a good thing that all movies aren't this extreme; but it's certainly one film you're unlikely to forget in a hurry.
It basically falls in "Mysterious Skin" territory in the sense that it does it's job well and proves its point effectively, but it's an emotionally draining experience. However, that is also a sign that it is an inescapably intense film, and one that deserves much respect. The performances from the entire cast are all outstanding, and the film's ability to be funny sometimes is a very brave and bold move by director Todd Solondz. Be aware though, it is one of the most difficult movies I've sat through, and one that will undeniably stick with me for a long time.
DIRECTED BY: Todd Solondz
SUMMARY: 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.
MY THOUGHTS: "This is one of those movies you come away with either getting it or missing the point completely. Definitely not a movie for most.. But even if you don't like it, you will end up talking about it. It's one of the most disturbing, honest, bizarre, awkward, and yet sometimes funny movie I have ever seen. The only film I have ever seen to sum up all those words. It was hard to watch at times. I was disgusted one moment and then laughing the next. This movie is about some horrific things and I was hesitant to watch the film knowing this. But the way the director brought those moments to the screen was pure genius. You don't see it, he leaves it up to you to paint the gruesome picture in your head. It's done smart, and not dirty and gratuitous. Smart title as well, considering that's what they are all striving for or believe they have already. But this movie is far from being happy."
little kid at the end "I came! I came!"