Film Reviews


By • Oct 22nd, 2004 •

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Fox Searchlight Pictures presents in association with Qwerty Films a Kanzeon / Scott Rudin / N1 European Film Produktions production
Running time — 105 minutes

QUOTE: Horrible torture. David O. Russell hates us.

I now know the following: Jude Law did not read the script for THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY. It did not make one bit of difference to Naomi Watts if she did WITHOUT A PADDLE or 21 GRAMS. Mark Wahlberg is a nice guy willing to help out his pals. Dustin Hoffman needed a job. Lilly Tomlin wanted to show off her new breasts. And France’s great actress Isabelle Huppert? I do not have a clue why she accepted a role in this movie.

Environmentalist Albert Markovski (Jason Schwartzman) is intent upon saving open spaces and running his own little fiefdom (“I can’t be fired! I wrote the charter!”) His latest campaign is against the expansion of Huckabees department store. But first he has a minor coincidence that defies logic and sets his entire world in chaos. He feels at odds with the Universe since he saw the same seven foot tall African on three different occasions! In order to make sense out of this amazing anomalous event he seeks out the services of Existential Detectives Bernard (Dustin Hoffman) and Vivian Jaffe (Lily Tomlin). They enthusiastically babble on about nothingness and the expansion of the Universe. They follow Markovski around and interfere with his life. They intrude on his crusade against his chief nemesis, Huckabees’ top executive Brad Stand (Jude Law) and his girlfriend Dawn (Naomi Watts), the face and voice of the department store’s advertising. Watts gets to show off her body. Another one of the Jaffe’s clients, firefighter Tommy Corn (Mark Wahlberg) becomes Markovski’s buddy-coach. However, Corn has become suspicious of the Jaffes’ methods after reading anti-philosopher Caterine (Isabelle Huppert) Vauban’s book. Vauban is stalking Markovski.

I sat through the agony of a press screening while half the press walked out. I am certain that Russell got a lot of personal anger, betrayal, and cruelty out of his system. But why punish the audience? Why in the world would he have his lead character and Huppert shove each other’s face in a puddle of mud over and over? Why is every character in this movie furiously angry, bitter, and resentful? Markovski spits and Stand vomits. Most scenes are meaningless to us but hold profound importance to screenwriters Russell and Jeff Baena. The story goes nowhere and no point – however flimsy – is made. I dare you: What is Russell saying here? One thing is clear: Russell has a lot of friends who continue to indulge him regardless of his existential angst.

Albert Markovski: Jason Schwartzman
Bernard Jaffe: Dustin Hoffman
Caterine Vauban: Isabelle Huppert
Brad Stand: Jude Law
Vivian Jaffe: Lily Tomlin
Tommy Corn: Mark Wahlberg
Dawn: Naomi Watts

Director: David O. Russell
Screenwriters: David O. Russell & Jeff Baena
Producers: David O. Russell, Gregory Goodman, Scott Rudin
Executive producer: Michael Kuhn
Director of photography: Peter Deming
Production designer: K.K. Barrett
Editor: Robert K. Lambert
Costume Designer: Mark Bridges
Music: Jon Brion

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