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Happiness (1998)

happiness 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Happiness can be elusive.

Sharply tuned, interweaving group of vignettes all pertaining to that elusive paradox known as happiness. Jane Adams plays the single woman who is never able to find Mr. Right. Then when she thinks she does he turns into very much of a Mr. Wrong. Louise Lasser and Ben Gazzara, who are in what is probably the funniest segment, play an older couple whose marriage has lost its zing. Phillip Seymour Hoffman, in another dynamic performance, plays the composite nerd who gets off on giving obscene phone calls. Then there’s Camryn Manheim a woman everyone overlooks, but shouldn’t because she holds a dangerous secret.

There are times when this otherwise good film tries to be a little too hip and trendy, which doesn’t help. Although the characters are quite interesting in their eccentricities, they never seem to interact with each other like real people even if they are a little strange. In the case of Lara Flynn Boyle her affected way of talking becomes quite annoying.

On the whole though this film is quite compelling and has moments that really pack a punch. Although billed as a dark comedy it is really more of a drama. In the case of the affluent psychiatrist (Dylan Baker), who has a sexual penchant for his young son’s friend, it becomes downright unsettling and disturbing.

Yet it is the inner angst of these characters and how they deal with modern daily life that truly is what hits home. These people are complex and at times very confused with themselves. They are socially and sexually dysfunctional. They may, despite your reluctance, remind you or your own friends, co-workers, and family or even yourself. It truly shows how fragmented our society is and even gives us a hint as to why. After all how can one connect with someone else when they are so disconnected with themselves?

This is, as a whole, a great movie. It has scenes and characters that will stay with you long after it is over. However, only a select few will really enjoy it. Namely those who enjoy seeing things torn down and then exposed for what they really are.

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: October 16, 1998

Runtime: 2Hours 14Minutes

Rated R

Director: Todd Solondz

Studio: Good Machine

Available: DVD