Happiness 1998

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(42) IMDb 7.8/10
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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.

Starring:
Lara Flynn Boyle, Jane Adams
Rental Formats:
DVD

Product Details

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

Other Formats

Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By C. J. Willemse on 12 Jun 2008
Format: DVD
A very intelligent and funny movie. It addresses some very human weaknesses in a very uncompromising way. This is one of the rare movies that shows human behaviour without trying to conform to what is socially acceptable. The only thing missing is the narrative by David Attenborough.
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29 of 31 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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24 of 26 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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jenny J.J.I. on 10 Dec 2007
Format: DVD
This film is indeed marvelous. Todd Solondz combines really absurd situations and embarrassing moments -some of which most of us do encounter in daily life and some we hopefully won't- with serious issues. Thus, this film provides not only a very high degree of entertainment -Solondz' sense for irony is exceptional-, it gives you a critical view on society without judging or condemning or forcing you to think one way or the other. I am genuinely impressed by Happiness and its cast full of great actors.

It is littered with an assortment of characters that seem to have sexual fetishes and perversions of some sort. Solondz explores some dark subjects and you would think this would make the film harsh and difficult to watch, but it holds your attention throughout mainly because of the excellent performances on show, especially from Dylan Baker as a respected doctor who holds a terrible secret, and Philip Seymour Hoffman as an obscene phone-caller. He is so incredibly versatile - he successfully made my skin crawl here. Before I even go further the very first scene is probably the best work John Lovitz has ever done. This movie looks dead on at some of the most awkward and horrific things in American culture, but never ever ever tells you or suggests to you what you should think or feel, the way most films do. John's Speech will blow you away. Jane Adams, who has a calamitous love life and plays the social reject of three dysfunctional sisters, does a wonderful job in role her facial expressions will get you going. My personal favorite was Cynthia Stevenson as one of those typical housewives with 2.5 kids and a carpool. Her character was so obnoxious, superficial and condescending - she clearly did a wonderful job. I was also a huge fan of Camryn Manheim (what a twist!
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