I’ll have more to say about it later, I think, but Manhola Dargis’s New York Times review is a pretty good explanation for why I ♥ (♥ed?) I ♥ Huckabees (IMDB). Okay, I promise to stop using the heart symbol now, but I did enjoy the film quite a bit, and as Dargis notes, the film deals with post-9/11 “liberal-left despair” with the deft screwball humor that I needed to get me through Election Weekend (yeah, I know I shouldn’t worry so much, but still).
The film’s protagonist is Albert Markovski (Jason Scwartzman), a poet and environmental activist, who has founded the Open Skies Coalition to protect the environment against suburban sprawl. He is countered by Brad Stand (Jude Law in a wonderfully smary performance), an insincere rising executive for Huckabees, a chain store trying to appear eco-friendly, without really being eco-friendly. Brad is sort of in love with Dawn Campbell (Naomi Watts), Huckabees’ perky, all-American spokesperson. Or at least he’s in love with her image. Because of a series of coincidences, in which he keeps running into the same young African guy (it turns out he’s come to the US to escape genocide in the Sudan), Albert goes to see Jaffe and Jaffe (Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin), a pair of existential detectives, to sort out what ails him. Throw into the mix Tommy Corn (Mark Wahlberg), a firefighter (“but not a hero,” he reminds people) so petroleum-conscious after 9/11 that he bikes to fires rather than riding the truck. Their stories weave together in complicated ways that I’d rather not explain–I don’t want to spoil the fun.
But, as I watched, I found myself thinking about David O. Russell’s previous film, the vastly underappreciated Three Kings, still the best film about the first Gulf War. In fact, Wahlberg’s character seemed to be a virtual extension of the character he played in the previous film. There have been a lot of jokes lately about “liberal outrage fatigue,” and for me, the film seemed to offer some relief from all that, if only through its screwball humor. I’m having a difficult time knowing what to say about Huckabees, other than to say that I enjoyed its comedy and its optimism even in the face of Wal-Marts and SUVs, not to mention the other sorrows (genocide, terrorism) we’ve confronted since September 11. Though Dargis doesn’t find the film quite as comforting as I do, the film’s essential message, that we “keep pushing that rock back uphill,” really worked for me.
In other news, the film has “fake” websites galore, including a blog by the Mark Wahlberg character, Tommy Corn, a website for the Open Skies Coalition, for the Existential Detective Agency, and finally for the eponymous Huckabees Corporation itself.