Todd Solondz' critically acclaimed drama focuses upon the isolation and alienation of five individuals in the New Jersey suburbs. Joy (Jane Adams) is thirty years old and about to split up with her boyfriend Andy (Jon Lovitz). Alan (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) is an overweight loner who is obsessively besotted with Helen (Lara Flynn Boyle), but is unable to confront her directly and instead bombards her with obscene phone calls. Allen confesses his woes to his psychiatrist Bill (Dylan Baker), but still struggles to deal with the reality of the situation.
At times brilliant and insightful, at times repellent and false, Happiness
is director Todd Solondz's multi-story tale of sex, perversion and loneliness. Plumbing depths of Crumb-like angst and rejection, Solondz won the Cannes International Critics Prize in 1998 and the film was a staple of nearly every critic's Top 10 list. Admirable, shocking, and hilarious for its sarcastic yet strangely empathetic look at consenting adults' confusion between lust and love, the film stares unflinchingly until the audience blinks. But it doesn't stop there. A word of strong caution to parents: One of the main characters, a suburban super dad (played by Dylan Baker), is really a predatory paedophile and there is more than an attempt to paint him as a sympathetic character. Children are used in this film as running gags or, worse, the means to an end. Whether that end is a humorous scene for Solondz or sexual gratification for the rapist becomes largely irrelevant. Happiness
is an intelligent, sad film, revelatory and exact at moments. It's also abuse in the guise of art. That's nothing to celebrate. --Keith Simanton