Happiness - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Happiness Reviews

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½ August 17, 2017
Imagine Robert Altman and Woody Allen had directed a John Waters script and you'll have a flavour of Todd Solondz's superlative black black comedy. Several existentially lonely people cross paths in New Jersey and Florida, desperate for and in flight from real happiness. Solondz manages to mine huge laughs from the bleakest of scenarios, but never at the expense of his characters' genuine humanity, and his large ensemble cast are truly magnificent.
½ March 5, 2017
Very good and witty movie. Which gets knocked down a star by trying too hard to be edgy/profane.
February 6, 2017
Best comedy drama ever. Pretty disturbing topics so not for everyone.
February 2, 2017
A funny movie that tackles tricky subjects with a twisted sense of humour and some solid performances.
½ August 26, 2016
A truly sick & twisted film. If you like sick & disturbing films, you'll love this gem.
½ August 24, 2016
The second film from director Todd Solondz is a little harder to take in than his debut feature "Welcome to the Dollhouse," but this interwoven ensemble slice-of-life is shockingly sincere.
½ July 26, 2016
Happiness, the sophomore effort of Todd Solondz, is in masterpiece in its own right. It is equal parts humane drama and cringe comedy, often blurring the two within the same scene. The acting is universally amazing to behold across the board, but the two standouts are Philip Seymour Hoffman and Dylan Baker. Every character has something about them that makes them an engaging, interesting character to follow which means no matter which vignette you're in there will always be something of interest going on. The use of pastel colors and softer music adds an ironic element to the film, with how it's overly sappy trappings belie an inner depression lying just below the surface. One of the most touching movies I've seen in a while, Happiness gets a very strong recommendation.
June 25, 2016
I really, really liked Solondz's first movie, Welcome to the Dollhouse. Then he made Happiness and it was instantly apparent to me that it had all of Dollhouse's hipster misanthropy and none of its charm. So in spite of the fact that it became wildly popular - to the point that I may have started lying to some of you that I had seen it (sorry/not sorry) - I never actually saw it until today. Anyway, yes, it made me squirm, and no, I don't think it's very good.

Now, if it had all been the Louise Lasser, Ben Gazzara movie, THAT might have been cool.
½ June 17, 2016
Sick. Can't turn away.
½ April 3, 2016
I watched the trailer and went into this one otherwise blind. I was then faced with the biggest, and most horrifying surprise that I've ever been faced with in my entire life. 'Happiness' is one of the most soul-crushingly upsetting things that I've ever witnessed. I heartily recommend it.

Sometimes, this is a comedy- a pretty funny one that usually falls into traditional rom-com territory but that also isn't afraid to have some dark humour and push the boundaries a little bit. At other times, this is a drama that will probably deeply upset you. It all feels like a bit of a cruel joke really but then you see that, well, there's nothing else like this is there? Why can't a rom-com also be about the, um, 'stuff' that this film is about? Why can't I laugh one minute and want to cry in horror the next? This is actually a truly groundbreaking film. Groundbreaking but also, what the hell did I just watch!? Groundbreaking/what the hell did I just watch!? about sums it up really.

The cast are great and the script is well-written and the film looks good and blah, blah- blah, once you start watching it you'll be too gobsmacked to even try and look at such things critically. This film will make your jaw drop repeatedly, It will make you laugh, possibly make you cry, and also... what the hell did I just watch!?

Love it loathe it- you aren't going to find another film quite like this one anytime soon.
March 28, 2016
Good but left me with a "fucked up" feeling.
½ March 8, 2016
Howligly-harrowingly-hysterically funny. Dylan Baker got one of the most egregious snubs of all time for not receiving anything for this. Thankfully my first Todd Solondz movie was so... good! And now I watch it 4 more times (!) for my Cinema Immersion Tank challenge.

First impression: if Louis CK wrote something very, very fucked up, like more than usual.
½ February 10, 2016
Controversial when first released due to its sympathetic and graphic portrayal of a pedophile, ironically Happiness is far from shock cinema. Solondz's tight script leads to an ensemble picture that's both wickedly funny and unnervingly disturbing. Honestly, this makes American Beauty look like Pee Wee's Playhouse. The faint-hearted are well-advised to stay clear, but you won't find many other movies that offer such bright portrayals of depraved individuals. Decide for yourself if that's a good thing.
January 27, 2016
Happiness is what I would call a pretty disturbing film, but I mean it in the very best of ways. It examines its subject matter not with violence and hysteria, but with words and behaviour. It was heavily criticised on release due to its controversial themes, but when you attempt to depict a subject matter such as paedophilia, there's no way you're going to do it without upsetting someone. Todd Solondz bravely tackles issues such as loneliness, dissatisfaction, maturity and child molestation head-on, highlighting how they affect both the sufferer and those around them. The acting is fantastic, especially from Dylan Baker. With a sexual attraction to children getting the better of him, Baker portrays his character as restrained and in control, but always on the edge. What's so admirable about the films approach is it doesn't deny that what he's doing is morally reprehensible and has no place in modern society, always showing the damage that he is doing, but it doesn't make it seem like he does it out of a will to cause pain. He's just a man with a sickening compulsion that threatens to destroy him. This storyline is the emotional highlight of the film, but all the others work too, especially when you have master character actor Philip Seymour Hoffman on the cast list. All these characters want is to find their own happiness in an unforgiving world, and the film shows how that can often be a journey paved with misery and ridicule.
½ December 23, 2015
Roger Ebert: "...the depraved are only seeking what we all seek, but with a lack of ordinary moral vision... In a film that looks into the abyss of human despair, there is the horrifying suggestion that these characters may not be grotesque exceptions, but may in fact be part of the mainstream of humanity..."
½ October 7, 2015
If we didn't spend our entire lives searching for bliss, we wouldn't have a reason to live. Happiness is a driving force in humanity - it's the emotion we most eagerly turn to time and time again, after times of anger, sadness, and yes, even happiness. Once we experience elation, there's never a moment in which we don't want to feel it again. It's much too addictive to pass up, like an ice cold Diet Coke on an afternoon in mid-July or a cup of hot cocoa following a long winter walk.
But alas, not everyone is equipped with an endless supply of dopamine - some, unfortunately, are more fruitful in their ecstasy than others. 1998's "Happiness," written and directed by black comedy master Todd Solondz, is about that small percentage of individuals, who either spend their days putting on a happy face in order to be culturally accepted or succumb to their misery.
A film so downbeat in its storytelling strategies should be unattractive - I'm sure most would prefer to sit through something delightful like "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" - but Solondz isn't the type to drown in his own death wishes a la Michelangelo Antonioni. He, instead, sees the twisted humor in the widespread suffering of his characters, looking at mini-tragedies such as disappointingly uninterested one-night-stands, unfulfilling work experiences, and joyless sex lives as if they were sitcom tropes. Imagine one of those funny scenes in a "Friends" or a "Seinfeld" where someone says the wrong thing, where the wrong character shows up at the wrong time, where the wrong outcome is produced. This time, though, the comedy isn't bright - it's bruising.
What Solondz's goal is is hard to say. Is he interested in creating a social satire specifically pointing a finger at the white upper-middle class? A character study that focuses on unlucky - some terrible - people who crave contentment but will possibly never find it? Here, we aren't so pressed to find out. We can only watch in inexplicable hypnotization as we decide whether to laugh, to cry, or to wince. If we're lucky, maybe we'll experience all three.
"Happiness" circles around three sisters, Joy (Jane Adams), Helen (Lara Flynn Boyle), and Trish (Cynthia Stevenson). When we first meet Joy, meek and kind-hearted, she is in the process of dumping a self-pitying loser (Jon Lovitz) who verbally abuses her for not reciprocating his premature love. Nearing thirty and completely aimless, Joy causes alarm in Trish, a cheerful housewife married to Bill (Dylan Baker), a therapist by day and a child molester by night. Trish is the kind of woman who believes you won't amount to much if you aren't married and are without kids; Bill is the kind of man smart enough to know what a horrible person he is while still being too stupid to control himself. Helen, the most successful of the sisters, is a well-off poet tired of the endless praise from love interests, literary critics, and the public. She craves disappointment, to feel like she isn't good enough for once.
Also connected to this cast of thoroughly messed up characters are Allen (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a mouth-breathing pervert who tells his therapist (who just so happens to be Bill) of his wildest sexual fantasies but is only confident enough to briefly shout them out to anonymous women on the telephone (two callers just so happen to be Joy and Helen; Helen is also his neighbor); Mona (Louise Lasser) and Lenny (Ben Gazzara), the long-married parents of the sisters whose relationship is shattered after Lenny calls for separation in order to achieve much desired "alone time"; and Billy (Rufus Read), Bill and Trish's awkward preteen son more concerned with climaxing for the first time than with any other sort of middle-school based emotional issues.
"Happiness" is a challenging film. Apart from the sympathetic Adams, who has a presence timid enough to make you want to give her a bear hug, the ensemble is comprised of characters not conventionally likable or unlikable; they exist in a middle-ground of average, monstrously selfish one moment and sympathetic the next. These are people we'd meet on the street, appearing convincingly mild-mannered in the scope of a glimpse. But once doors close and fears are amplified, they turn into relatable, if not pathetic, connoisseurs of depression, searching for happiness but unsure of where exactly to find it.
Covering their self-hatred is a visible irony represented by pastel colors and interludes of sitcom-ready orchestral music; when one traumatic scene ends, we can expect Solondz to transition to the next as if a jaw-drop is normal, as if a disturbing confessional is a witty one-liner in disguise. He is the finest director of black comedy I've ever seen - everything about "Happiness" should be dead serious. And yet, we find ourselves laughing in-between grimaces, a description more literal than any other time I've used it.
It's not an easy film, but there's something consuming about the way it explores the underbellies of what's considered "normal" in American society; what happens when the all-American dad is actually a serial rapist, when the successful author yearns for unanimous panning that will never arrive, when the 60-something married couple destroys the idea that marriage can last a lifetime by proclaiming boredom? The sly subversion of "Happiness" is what makes it such an excellent film - but I can only recommend it to the most cynical of viewers. Most will be unsure what they should be thinking. Even I don't know.
September 15, 2015
Definitely not for everyone... this is as black as comedy can go... but honestly, it's one of my favorites. It dares to say that these people, who most people would consider absolute slime, are still human and complex.
July 11, 2015
Nothing is quite like seeing Happiness for the first time. You never think it's going to go all the way there, but then it does, and in the most jaw-droppingly hilarious ways possible. Comedy doesn't get much darker.
July 2, 2015
Humorous and dark. They give a real face to what happiness is for troubled, perverted people.
Super Reviewer
½ June 20, 2015
super funny tale all interconnected through the lives of three sisters. Some cringe worthy and memorable lines. Hoffman's part's hilarious!
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