Happiness [VHS] 
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
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Nice movie, comedy DRAMA! Everybody have problems in life! Magnolia movie+requiem for a dream movie= HAPPINESS MOVIEPublished 22 days ago by Carlos
Dark black comedy - beautifully acted. Not for the faint-hearted. We loved itPublished 22 days ago by jonathan fisher
This film is a very hard watch. To be honest it's a bit like watching a car crash in that parts of it are so grim that you have to watch despite yourself. Read morePublished 6 months ago by haarp
This movie is absurdly funny. Funny in an evil way. I laughed until my face hurt. Just watch it.Published 7 months ago by Private Confidential
Perhaps I missed the point but can't agree with all the acolades on the DVD cover.
Indeed a disturbing film (and long and slow moving) with a few far spaced flashes of... Read more