Tuesday, November 02, 2004

As planned, I hit the polling booth early and got through in about 45 minutes. I always say I'm going to punch the Straight Democrat ticket, but instead I went office by office, just to make sure. wound up voting for one Republican, John Wells, running unopposed for Kershaw County Council. This is pretty much the only circumstance in which I vote Republican. Elsewhere across the state: long lines everywhere. My mom, at 76, waited in line for four hours, bless her heart, to vote Republican (a constant, lifelong source of disagreement.)

This afternoon I saw I Heart Huckabees, which is quite impressive and all-but-impossible to describe. I sat there watching all the wonderful actors in it -- Dustin Hoffman, Lily Tomlin, Mark Wahlberg, Jude Law, Naomi Watts, and Jason Schwartzman -- thinking how they all were so convincing in their roles, and I couldn't help but think how much work that alone represented on the side of Director David O. Russell. It's a very cerebral comedy; it's the kind of comedy written by someone with a very deep understanding of philosophy and philosophical problems, and a real conversational ease with it. I kept thinking of what the original read-throughs must have been like, how much explaining Russell had to do, or if he had to. Whatever -- it worked. The great thing about it is that a movie of this strange sort is also a great ensemble acting piece. Everyone fits perfectly.

This doesn't tell you anything as to what it's about, does it? It's about several different young people who are at a stage in adulthood where they are trying to work out problems both personal and cosmic; people who are frustrated, at some level or another, with their domestic and professional problems and, also, with whether or not life has meaning. They are all connected with a Target-like store called Huckabees which is in the process of opening a new store in an environmentally sensitive area, and their lives are twisted into all kinds of shapes by what might be called dueling therapists: a pair of "existential detectives" (Hoffman and Tomlin) -- who believe the universe has meaning and purpose -- and their nihilistic counterpart (Isabelle Huppert, still beautiful as ever), who believes the opposite, that you have to embrace the meaninglessness of life on earth. This sounds very Bergmanesque and it is, kind of, but it's also very whimsical and silly and engaging and eventually captivating; like some strange marriage between Jean-Paul Sartre and Neil Simon. The weird thing about it is it seems like a novel, a very artsy, very modern, very self-consciously postmodern novel -- which is not something I recall saying about many films. Even what we commonly think of as "art films" don't embrace language as much as this one does; the jokes are all very much based in dialogue (which is not to say the visuals aren't pretty freaky too). I don't think I've seen a movie like it in years; hell, I don't think I've seen many old, classic, high-minded, highly artistic foreign films like it, truth be told.

It's unique, but I didn't love it. I was fascinated by it, fascinated by the idea of it. A daring film, alright, and maybe a little too weird for more comment at this stage of the evening.

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