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God bless the modern generation of film whiz kids. This new breed of director continues to take risks, expanding the filmmaking vocabulary. In the last ten years, Paul Thomas Anderson ("Magnolia"), Baz Luhrmann ("Moulin Rouge"), Spike Jonze ("Being John Malkovich"), Miguel Arteta ("The Good Girl") Michel Gondry ("Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind") and the rest of the class deserve solid B+'s for their work. Creative, evocative, and mind twisting, they've wiped clean most of the malaise from the 80s and 90s. However, the class of wunderkinds so far has included only two, Alexander Payne ("Election") and Wes Anderson ("Rushmore"), capable of fully cohesive narrative structure.
The rest throw 7000 cinematic darts at the wall and 700 stick. That IS 650 more than most directors today but sloppiness and disorientation still seeps through most of their work due to an immaturity that I have no doubt will fade eventually, if they learn from their errors and prevent to rest on their good publicity. Kevin Smith ("Dogma") needs an editor to cut away his overindulgences; M Night Shamalayan ("Sixth Sense") requires a writer who focuses on dialogue over surprise endings; and David O Russell must learn that quirky does not automatically translate to funny. "I Heart Huckabees," his latest comedy, contains off the wall characters, loopy situations but maybe three of four laughs.
Albert Markovski (Jason Schwartzman) suffers from an existential crisis. The founder of an environmental organization, he finds himself pushed out by a charismatic executive from a Wal-Mart clone called Huckabees. Most distressing, he had personally signed his organization away to the Huckabee huckster (Jude Law).
Albert hires existential detectives (Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin), a married couple whose extreme methods secure in their clients' fragile minds that every human is part of the collective consciousness. Their archrival (Isabelle Huppert) steals away clients with her "life is only chaos" theory. With such contradictions, Albert cannot get hold of his life.
"I Heart Huckabees" is a frustratingly convoluted ensemble piece that doesn't know whether it wants to emulate Robert Altman ("Short Cuts") or Charlie Kauffman ("Eternal Sunshine" and Being John Malkovich"). It's more probable that he hopes to attract modern French film fans that soak up the enigmatic world of François Ozon ("Swimming Pool"). Ozon's theories are apparent in his films and his execution is perplexing. Russell appears to be walking that same line.
Russell's previous films, from "Spanking The Monkey" to "Flirting With Disaster" to "Three Kings," asked his audiences intricate questions but handled the situations with witty dialogue. Who can forget ex-goody goody Mary Tyler Moore hoisting up her breasts stating, "Are these the breasts of a grandmother?" in "Flirting with Disaster." in this film, Russell, forces his mouthpieces to commentary as opposed to organically flowing. Therefore it feels like a speech, not a conversation.
The cast seems as befuddled as the writer/director. Because he doesn't provide a rhythm, it's not surprising that everyone seems off balance, particularly Schwartzman and Mark Wahlberg as a histrionic fellow patient. Only Law as the morally polluted company man and Naomi Watts as his pin up girlfriend appear to enjoy themselves. The best scene can be found in the trailer when the façade before Law and Watts' relationship begins to crumble as he proudly gloats and she embarrassingly admits to their eight-minute sex lives.
"Huckabees" is filled with many inside jokes upon which the audience hasn't been invited, therefore the pictures is quite isolating and esoteric. It was enjoyable to see Markovski's cloying mother played by his own mom, Talia Shire, but her presence appears relevant only because she is his actual mother, a fact of which most of the audience was probably unaware.
"I Heart Huckabees" is intellectual masturbation from a very talented writer-director who this time couldn't figure out how to orgasm. I applaud his attempt and his ability to stretch the film universe, but this time, the venture turned flaccid. Grade: C

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