Happiness

1998

Comedy / Drama

0
Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 83%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 89%
IMDb Rating 7.7 10 70520

sibling relationship rape extramarital affair relationship stalker

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Plot summary


Uploaded by: FREEMAN
October 04, 2022 at 02:25 PM

Director

Top cast

Jared Harris as Vlad
Lara Flynn Boyle as Helen Jordan
Jane Adams as Joy Jordan
720p.BLU
1.26 GB
1280*698
English 2.0
NR
23.976 fps
2 hr 20 min
P/S ...

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by evilmatt-3 9 / 10

An oft-misunderstood film about quiet desperation

I wasn't going to write a comment for this one, but after reading all the nasty things said about it, and considering that _Happiness_ was the basis for one of my final undergraduate philosophy papers, I feel a duty to defend it.

First of all, what you've heard is true: this movie is very graphic and almost impossible to sit through without covering your eyes at least once. However, it is worth noting that the most uncomfortable scenes are uncomfortable precisely because of an empathy that the audience establishes with the characters; it is that precisely that empathy which often pulls the audience in a direction opposite from social mores that makes us squirm. I don't know how many of the other critics here are schooled in film theory, but that kind of powerful emotional effect is typically considered a GOOD THING in films. So, really, what most people object to about this film is the content, regardless of what they want other to believe.

That said, this really is a wonderful film precisely because of the level of human understanding, empathy, and reality it encompasses. It portrays human nature from the inside out, where it is least dignified and most pathetic. What we see are a number of people desperately scrabbling around for fulfillment, because they have all to some degree achieved the fulfillment of their desires and found it hollow. Since they don't realize this fact themselves (most people don't), they look for that fulfillment they feel entitled to by using other people. It is this fundamental destructiveness of human desire (written about masterfully by Zizek) which causes the "evils" in this film.

I put "evils" in quotes because, as Solondz's film masterfully demonstrates, there is no evil to be found in this film; there is only humanity and suffering. This absence of moral judgment, though disquieting, is what allows the spectacular sense of empathy and full moral complexity of this film.

Thus, the moral of the film is that the surest way of destroying happiness is to seek it. And that, I feel, is a message that not only makes this a great film but also an artwork of tremendous social value.

Reviewed by Movie-12 10 / 10

One of the year's best films--but be prepared for some very disturbing material. **** (out of four)

HAPPINESS / (1998) **** (out of four)

Todd Solondz, writer and director of "Happiness," describes his perplexing film as "a series of intertwining love stories, stories of connections missed and made between people, how people always struggle to make a connection, and to what degree they succeed or don't." It's about relationships, obsessions, and stunning discoveries both private and social. It contains some very graphic material-enough that the filmmakers released it without an MPAA rating. Even as the film exploits extreme adult themes and graphic content, it does not glamorize or stylize its subjects. Rather, it uses them to paint a disturbing picture of the dark side of human nature.

The film connects with the audience because these characters feel real-they are ordinary people with serious problems. It takes place in a homely suburbia environment in which Solondz draws us in, and eventually pushes us far away with enough provocative content to stand next to "A Clockwork Orange." The movie does, however, know what to show on screen and what not to. It's smart, and indecisive, not dirty and gratuitous. The film defines the character's relationships very well. "Happiness" doesn't explore random, unrelated characters. Their separate lives do, however, connect, and the movie does a great job revealing those connections.

"Happiness" follows a complicated story woven through the lives of many characters. Joy Jordan (Jane Adams), a middle-aged telephone sales person living by herself in New Jersey, longs for a decent relationship after recently breaking up with her boyfriend (Jon Lovitz). Her parents, Mona (Louise Lasser), and Lenny (Ben Gazzara), are pending a divorce through their catalyst neighbor (Elizabeth Ashley). Joy has two sisters: Trish (Cynthia Stevenson), and Helen (Lara Flynn Boyle). Helen brags about how many men lust for her, while Trish is a chripy homemaker married to a therapist named Bill (Dylan Baker). Bill appears to be a typical husband and father, but he is really a homosexual pedofile who masturbates over teen idol magazines and molests the friends of his preteen son, Billy (Rufus Reed). Bill, however, has done a good job at hiding his disturbing feelings from his friends and family.

Billy confronts his father about his developing sexuality, while Bill is also riddled with sex discussions as one of his patients, Allen (Philip Seymour Hoffman) obsessively raves about having sex with Helen. They meet one day when Allen makes one of his usual obscene phone calls, and Helen enjoys his heavy breathing and wants to make love with Allen. A large woman (Camryn Manheim) who lives in the same apartment complex as Allen often knocks at his door. She likes Allen, but he is too busy shuffling through porno magazines and making explicit phone calls to random women to notice those feelings.

In the production notes, producer Ted Hope describes Todd Solondz's vision as "comedic tragedy. Todd knows how to maintain that fine balance between heartbreak and humor. You're often unsure whether to laugh or cry." The dialogue, always riveting and thought-provoking, sometimes shocking with its irony and explicitness, often perplexes us; we are not quite sure how to respond to such phrases.

Take a scene where Bill exchanges a conversation with the coach of his son's baseball team –we're not sure whether to laugh or weep-we feel a little humor and sadness mixed. The coach is concerned of his own son's sexual status-he is afraid his kid is homosexual. Here's what their conversation involves:

Coach: What do you think would happen if I got him a professional... you know... Bill: A professional? Coach: Hooker. You know, the kind that can teach things... first-timers, you know... break him in. Bill: But Joe, he's 11. Coach: You're right, you're right. It's too late.

Ironic how I screened Neil Lebute's sexually provocative "Your Friends & Neighbors," just days after this astonishing production. Both movies honestly examine deep human despair in disturbing, frank detail. I remember the dialogue in both films. A specific scene in "Happiness" where Billy asks his father some very difficult questions about molestation. His father answers his son honestly, no matter how difficult the questions got.

I compare that scene to the scene in "Your Friend's & Neighbors" where three men relax in a steam room, and the character played by Jason Patrick verbally remembers his best sexual experience. These sequences require numerous viewing. They stare into the deep, dark crevices of the heart, and we can only watch in bafflement at the thought-provoking power these movies have and how they challenge our perspectives. "Happiness" is one of the better films of the year.

Reviewed by capkronos 10 / 10

Solondz is one of the best American directors working today. Period.

I don't want to waste time analyzing the plot since others have covered it so well... Basically here we have a Robert Altman-esqe pastiche of characters stemming from a seemingly normal family, plus others who come into their lives. Solondz sets them up and examines their lives, their dreams, their interactions and their facades. What's important is that he doesn't JUDGE these people. And even more importantly, he doesn't condescend to his audience. Like it or not, the people in this movie do exist and I think viewers instantly realize that.

This movie stirs up such strange emotions. It's tough to admit that we may have something in common with a Suburban pedophile, a pathetic dreamer, a pretentious literary snob or a obscene telephone sex stalker and one of the most frightening ideas ever put on film is here: Solondz makes plausible the people we view as being "sick" or generally look down upon aren't that much different than us. They still want the same things we do. And he also questions the ideals America seems to hold most dear, like monogamy and morality. And yeah, happiness. How exactly DO you find happiness? Is ANYONE really happy?

I cannot recommend HAPPINESS enough (neither can I with the director's equally impressive and incisive WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE). It's just an extraordinary movie; surprisingly funny, intelligent, brutally honest, powerful, original and relevant. The cast is thoroughly excellent and Solondz follows his own compass at all times in both the scripting and directing department. He's a brave filmmaker and I really have a lot of admiration for directors and writers who stray away from the tired Hollywood blockbuster formula. Good for some popcorn, sure, but aren't you glad there's other stuff out there to choose from?

Reading some of the other reviews posted here I was surprised at the amount of negative comments. I guess this isn't for everyone out there. If you want a fun night of fantasy escapism or a brainless comedy, don't bother. But if you want a blisteringly funny dose of reality, then don't miss this! Definitely a top contender for My 10 Favorite Movies of the 1990s list.

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