I went in to the movie “I Heart Huckabees” knowing I was going to see a rather bizarre film given that the headline on the poster was “An Existential Comedy.” I mean, how many existential films has one seen, let alone existential comedies? However, I had been waiting for this film to come out since I first watched the trailer on the Apple Trailers Web site in early September. The trailer had been perfectly edited to give tiny glimpses of the craziness of this film. With a wide-ranging cast including Lily Tomlin, Dustin Hoffman, Mark Wahlberg and Jason Schwartzmen and acclaimed director David O. Russel, whose previous films include the wonderfully bizarre “Flirting with Disaster,” guiding them through this maze of a film I knew I was in for a cinematic treat.

When not pursuing my academics, I anxiously awaited the Oct. 1 opening of the film. Sadly you can imagine my disappointment when the film did not come out for weeks because I forgot that I went to school in Amish country and we only got acclaimed films like “White Chicks” to actually come out on the day they were expected to come out.

With this in between time in which I did not know what to do with myself, I read reviews of the film, since it had already come out in the rest of the free world. The reviews, however, were not very comforting. Entertainment Weekly called it a Charlie Kaufmann wannabe and said that the plot made no sense at all – not even in a good “Mission Impossible” doesn’t-make-sense way. Of course, this is the same publication that has put Sarah Michelle Gellar on the cover five times, so could I really view it as a reliable source? Finally, though, the film came to the Little Theatre on Oct. 19 and I made sure I was early for the 7:30 p.m. show.

As I drove to the movie, half-heartedly singing along to the Shania Twain song on the radio – I swear, this offbeat but witty banter will become relevant if you keep reading – I began to worry I really wouldn’t like the film which I had built up such expectations for (I had two posters and an “I Heart Huckabees” pin).

Well, all I can say is to hell with movie reviewers, because when the lights went down in the theater and the film began to roll, magic took place. I could barely explain the story to you if you asked, but since this is a film review, I will try. Jason Schwartzmen, in his comeback role from the beloved film “Rushmore” – because he needed a three-year hiatus to relax at the ripe old age of 22 – plays the delightfully naive and curious Albert Markovski, who is in search of an explanation to three very odd coincidences he has had.

So what else would one do in this situation but hire an existential detective team consisting of a very buxom Lilly Tomlin and a mop-topped Dustin Hoffmann? Albert is then led on a wonderful self-analyzing journey with special effects galore where he encounters all kinds of eccentric characters, including a petroleum-obsessed fireman (Mark Wahlberg) and a horny French revolutionary named Catherine Vauban (Isabelle Hupert). His journey is centered around the department store, Huckabees, in which Brad Stand (Jude Law), whom Albert had been collaborating with on an environmental project, is quickly rising in the ranks.

The audience soon learns that Brad’s usurping of Albert’s position is really the root of Albert’s existential crisis and chaos ensues as Brad proceeds to hire the detectives to examine his picture-perfect life.

The message stressed over and over again in the film is that everything in the universe is connected and everything is really the same, Brad and Albert, who appear to be polar opposites, actually have more in common “under the surface.”

However, the other message stressed in the film is that everything is not the same and nothing in the universe is relative to anything else. The film shows that both theories make sense through a bunch of really weird scenes in which the characters just do the most random, hilarious things but which seem to make sense at the time.

One leaves the theater either feeling very philosophical or really not philosophical at all. However, a big part of the film was a story about Shania Twain, who, as you recall, is the artist I had randomly been listening to on the radio.

Now, where are my existential detectives? And Mark Wahlberg as well?

Lepore can be reached at

mlepore@campustimes.org.



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