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Happiness 1998


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4.0 out of 5 stars (47) IMDb 7.8/10

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.

Lara Flynn Boyle, Jon Lovitz
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Product Details

  • Feature ages_18_and_over
Runtime 2 hours 14 minutes
Starring Lara Flynn Boyle, Jon Lovitz, Dylan Baker, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Louise Lasser, Jared Harris, Camryn Manheim, Justin Elvin, Ben Gazzara, Cynthia Stevenson, Jane Adams
Director Todd Solondz
Genres Drama
Rental release 15 May 2000
Main languages English

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Olly Buxton on 9 Nov. 2011
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Never before has a film addressed "coming of age" quite so literally.

This is a dark, dark comedy: the sort of thing that might emanate from the deepest circle of the hell of Woody Allen's nightmares. The titular happiness, in case you were wondering, is colossally ironic. This is a story of loosely related individuals - more loosely related than you'd expect given most relations are of the blood or marital sort - all of whom are profoundly at odds with themselves and their environment. Much of their collected oddness manifests itself in sexual dysfunction of one sort or another, but of a far deeper and sicker kind than is commonly found in Woody Allen's material. Indeed, by comparison Allen's neuroticism seems positively winsome.

These people are deeply, darkly, fatally neurotic: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who seems to revel in these kinds of parts, an overweight, greasy, bespectacled misogynist who has unspeakable fantasies, fantasies which he nonetheless brazenly speaks about, to his shrink and to his victims, through inept crank calls. His shrink Bill Maplewood (Dylan Baker) is a paedophile. Maplewood is married to Trish (Cynthia Stevenson) a woman whose hi-tensile smugness betrays a fundamental insecurity about her place in the world. Trish doesn't know of, but we suspect she may fear for, her husband's ghastly proclivities. Trish has two sisters who, in turn, field Allen's crank calls, and seem to enjoy them. The sisters' parents, holed up in a Florida condo, see their Marriage as a loveless contractual bind.

In the middle of it all is a teenaged boy, Timmy (Justin Elvin), Trish and Bill's son, who is fruitlessly willing on the onset of his own puberty, providing his father a running commentary. His father darkly enjoys.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Rich Milligan on 14 Aug. 2005
Format: DVD
Happiness. What a strange title for a film that is anything but!
It's one of those films that is almost impossible to sum up. It's really a long collection of short interconnecting sketches that detail the personal quirks of a dozen or so characters and the skeletons in their closets they'd probably wouldn't want us to know about.
The main thread of the plot is the three Jordan sisters who are all dealing with their own individual crisis. Firstly we meet Joy, who is having dinner with the boyfriend she's just dumped. Joy is insecure, vulnerable, naive and a little goofy. When Andy, her ex-boyfriend, commits suicide days later and she receives a nasty phone call from Andy's mother, she quits her job and starts to teach immigrants English, only to fall for Russian romantic Vlad, whose partner attacks poor Joy in the staff room when she finds out.
We then meet Allen who is seeing a therapist about his obsession with Helen his neighbour. Helen is one of the Jordan sisters and Allen's therapist is married to the other one, (with us so far?) Allen starts to make dirty phone calls to Helen, but to his amazement Helen actually enjoys them, which just doesn't compute with sad lonely Allen. He has his own problems anyway with his other neighbour, Kristina.
Perhaps the most controversial storyline is concerning the final sister, Trish. As we've said she married to Bill the therapist, but what Trish doesn't know is that Bill is a secret paedophile who secretly drugs his family to take advantage of his son's sleep-over friend.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 10 May 2000
Format: DVD
This is my favourite film and, if you open your mind just a little bit, you will be greatly rewarded.
Yes, this movie contains child rape, murder, masturbation, paeodophelia etc. but the film is as masterful as it is because it already assumes the audience knows that these things are bad. This is a rare film that will not preach to your "inner conscience" and respects its' audience.
An connecting tale of family disfunction and sexual inadequacy all joined Short Cuts/ Magnolia/ Pulp Fiction style by one or two events is centrally about three daughters, one a terminally smiling but incredibly unfulfilled social worker (Jane Adams), another an unknowing housewife (Cynthia Stevenson) to a paeodophile and the "succesful" one, a beautiful poet with many sexual conquests but feels emotionally empty (Lara Flynn Boyle) and their parents' (Ben Gazzera and Louise Lasser) breakdown of a thirty-year marriage. The film shows all of these (outwardly) normal people, yet many other detailed and brilliant characters, on their search for fulfilment, love and happiness.
Todd Solondz's incredibly ambitious and emotially shattering third film (see also his last: Welcome to the Dollhouse, almost perfect) is a masterpiece, not only of genius scriptwriting that makes you want to laugh, scream, cry and burn the film all in a single line, but also some of the most beautifully underplayed direction, unlike Sam Mendes' recent Oscar winning helming. The relationships are perfectly portayed with the ending scene between Bill, the paeodophile, and his betrayed son one of the most heart wrenching in cinema history.
The acting is completely perfect.
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