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Tuesday, April 11, 2006 

Review of I |Heart| Huckabees
Topic: City of Man

Can you see this if I type I ♥ Huckabees? Can you see that? Or do I consistently need to write I |Heart| Huckabees? Or are we all under the same blanket of ♥|Heartness| so that it all looks the same, the same nothingness?

Its honestly difficult to tell in this movie. What follows is not so much a review, but rather an individualized response to the movie. And that's probably good, because checking out a few other reviews online - like Beradinelli's or Ebert's - shows that most other professional reviewers don't have a clue what to do with the movie either. So while this won't be a critical dissection of plot and cinematic history/impressionism, I would like to focus in on the movie's lack ofphilosophy, the commentary regarding Jesus Christ as similar to other mental crutches, and some of my favorite parts.

Having graduated with a degree in Philosophy, a friend of mine was shocked that I hadn't seen the piece before. In all honesty, I was intrigued by what little knowledge I had of the movie, and though it was rarely on my radar, whenever mentioned in conversation I always thought how much I might care to view it. As a confession, I have no doubt that half of my desire to watch comes from the title, I ♥ Huckabees. I ♥ that title. I ♥ Huckabees.

Ok, so there may be a really good reason why - as a philosophy major - I didn't ♥ the philosophy in the movie. Basically, there's the guys in the white hats who are trying to help everyone realize the interconnectedness of life. We are all made of atoms and particles that have - at one point in time - been composing other lifeforms (my wife), inanimate objects (the sun), and maybe even in other galaxies. All of existence is composed in a single, complex mathematical, physics-based equation deriving on infinity... with no remainders, as we are so often reminded. This entire metaphysic gets shots of energy with impregnable quotes like, "The universe is an infinite sphere whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere."

The bad guys (who aren't all that bad, just French women) are represented by the seductive-only-in-a-European-sort-of-way Caterine Vauban, a rogue student of the above metaphysic who has crafted her art on the narcissistic, the nihilistic, and the brokenness and pain that is inevitable in life. This, of course, is played up just as haphazardly and bizarrely. I ♥ bizzareness.

The joke, however, is on us. After spending most of the plot showing each philosophical corner attempting to win as many proselytes as possible, the main character Albert recognizes that, in fact, these two supposedly adversarial philosophies are actually two sides of the same coin. By merging these two ideologies, they perfectly balance each other out, eliminating the inconsistencies and imperfections in each other. I ♥ harmony.

Unfortunately, that seems to be the main philosophical thrust of the movie. Rather than actually looking at any metaphysic, the directors instead seem intent on showing the inherent idiocy in claiming any one meta-system's superiority over all others. (At one point, two of the leading male characters find themselves having dinner with a "Christian" family, who say the Lord's prayer, attend church regularly, and are suspicious of secular means such as psychology and philosophy. The encounter is not smooth, and the viewer is left feeling the Christian family is hypocritical in their values.) There is much that smacks of "circle of life," yin and yang, positive | negative, etc. Of course, in positing their own "there is no metanarrative!" we see the producers producing a metanarrative, that, quite frankly, probably doesn't have two feet to stand on. So, don't go to see the flick for the philosophical quotient. Just my two cents. I ♥ my two cents.

The Commentary
One of the great things about watching on DVD is the chance to hear what the directors/actors were thinking in various areas. Being a bit of a novice when it comes to to cinematography, I find it interesting to hear what is going on behind the scenes, so to speak. Usually, I never find time to listen to the entire commentary, which would mean sitting through the movie a second time. Far more often its a matter of listening to the first few minutes, and then picking out favorite scenes.

Apparently, Mark Wahlburg is known to his directors and cast mates as a Christian, being into Jesus, whatever. There are a few times when the director (who is part of the narration on the commentary, along with Mark Wahlburg, Naomi Watts, and Jason Schwartzman) in off-handed ways refers to the fact that Mr. Wahlburg is somehow linked to Jesus Christ.

Anyway, the director is referring to the ability to "not get caught up in everything," which is the same goal of very diverse activities, such as (in the director's mind): sex, drugs, meditation, sports, and then he says, "And church, right? Sports, drugs, church, right Mark?" At which point, Mark responds, "Yes, exactly..." [!][!] A little later, the director again brings this up:
D (director):This is the deal. This is what somebody told me about Christ, Mark. This is what Joseph Campbell told me about Jesus Christ. You've got pain, you've got suffering, when - and you can go to your Pure Being, or your pure being of prayer, or whatever it is, but there is always going to be the pain...

MW (Mark Wahlburg): Mmm-hmm

D: And that is what J. Campbell said, that when Christ is on the cross, what that means for him, He sees all that pain, all that human suffering and says, "Yes" to love and yes to life... and to existence

MW: Yes, if you know that and accept that, then its a lot easier to deal with all the pain...

D: Yep

MW: ...and you experience a lot more love and peace... and happiness.

D: Why?

MW: And -

D: Why is that? Is it because you're accepting the pain?

MW: Yeah, you have to know that this life is only temporary and your going to go to a better place.

D: So you don't take it [life] as seriously?

MW: Nope...

D: See, I think that -

MW: is what is is and some people get it rough and some get it very hard, you know? And you can certainly work very hard and if you are in a position to do something about it, but... its not the end of the world, unless...

D: See, that; that is really what the cubes are about for Dustin, right...? [Ed: the "cubes for Dustin" is the philosophy the film is pushing]

MW: Oh, look at this... yes [Ed: what Mark is urging us to look at is the romance scene about to occur in the film]

D: They are saying the same thing in your way, right Mark? In your way?

MW: Yeeaahhh, yes. Look at this...
Now I think this fairly profound, on at least two levels. I ♥ profound. First, I think it amazing that a conversation on Jesus Christ is happening on this level in a movie commentary. The director is genuinely curious to know what Mr. Wahlburg thinks concerning the philosophy. He genuinely wants to know what separates Jesus Christ from the other forms of Pure Being - sex, drugs, music, sports, meditation - and what makes it special. Is this the kind of witnessing opportunities you get in Hollywood? Sign me up for acting classes! I'd kill ♥ to have someone talk to me this way!

A note on Mr. Wahlburg. I give thanks that his producer so clearly sees Mr. Wahlburg's reliance and alliance with Jesus Christ. To my mind, given this dialogue it is clear that the director knows that Mark Wahlburg has a "relationship" with Jesus Christ. I would have rathered that Mr. Wahlburg NOT basically associate Christianity with an accepting-the-pain-I'm-glory-bound Gnostic/Buddhism, and I would have rathered that MW not have been consistenly preoccupied with the love scene about to occur in the following scene. However, I have no clue as to where Mr. Wahlburg actually stands in relation to God, so I'm very thankful for all that he did do.

On the Movie
If you've seen the movie, you'll appreciate these better. Some quotes (I ♥ quotes!):

Vivian Jaffe: Have you ever transcended space and time?
Albert Markovski: Yes. No. Uh, time, not space... No, I don't know what you're talking about.

Tommy Corn: I want my money back!
Albert Markovski: Yeah, and if I weren't pro bono, I'd want MY money back!

[diagnosing Brad]
Vivian Jaffe: Passive aggressive.
Brad Stand: Shut up!
Bernard Jaffe: Aggressive aggressive.

Dawn Campbell: There's glass between us. You can't deal with my infinite nature can you?
Brad Stand: That is so not true. Wait, what does that even mean?

Dawn Campbell: Brad, do you love me?
Brad Stand: I think so.
Dawn Campbell: With the bonnet?
Brad Stand: Ehhh...

As far as the movie goes, due to content, I can't really recommend it. However, due to philosophy, I don't want to recommend it. So its a win/win situation. I ♥ happy endings...

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Transplanted from the artic blight of Minnesota to the sunny paradise of SoCal, I am attending school and learning to say "dude." I like to think of myself as equal parts surf rash, Batman, heavy metal, Levinas, poetic license, and reformational. Other than creating blund blogs, I enjoy reading, sporting, and socializing with serious and funny people.
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