Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Happiness (1998)

Philip Seymour Hoffman and Lara Flynn Boyle in a scene from the film

I have finally seen Todd Solondz's film Happiness after months of dying to see it! I'm not sure if it started in 1990's America, but there seems to be a pattern of films from that time that were determined to destroy the 'American Dream' and show the reality of what happens to the typical American. A common typical American used in these films was the person living in suburbia with a husband/wife and kids whilst working in a dead-shit job. This is evident in such 90's films as American Beauty, Shortcuts, etc. I also think that Happiness is another great example of this.

Happiness, kind of tells the story of three sisters but also looks at the other people in their lives. The characters range from depressed to in denial to just being totally fucked up. And when I say fucked up I'm actually describing quite a few characters. For the most part I was quite impressed with the film; it raised some issues that perhaps haven't been covered so strongly in films that follow a similar theme. One issue that is looked at in particular is pedophilia. This is looked at through Dylan Baker's character, Bill Maplewood. His character, I found, was the most disturbing in the film and very hard to watch in scenes. I found it quite confronting when you would watch a scene where he discussed masturbation with his son so openly. It's these discussions that make you cringe and feel insanely uncomfortable. The final discussion he has with his son is the hardest to sit through.

Aside from the depressing and disturbing scenes in the film, it is often quite hilarious. An example of this is shown through a conversation between Philip Seymour Hoffman and Camryn Manheim in a diner. The story that Manheim tells Hoffman is told in such a funny way despite it's content and Hoffman's awkward reaction is genius! Solondz is an excellent filmmaker in that he manages to get a lot of emotions out of you and this film does it so well. It's a tough one to sit through but the performances from all actors are outstanding. Philip Seymour Hoffman is such a standout, I seriously don't think I have ever seen a film with him in it where I haven't been amazed by his acting.

In the end, despite being a little confronted and upset by some scenes, I was impressed overall. All stories are told brilliantly and even if it did get me a little down, it's always those films that linger and make an impact.

Rating: 4/5