Quick Background

So this is my first MTR article.  Hello.  When Rich asked me to come aboard, I jumped at the chance but, to be honest, had no idea what he wanted or where to begin.  So please bear with me.

This past weekend, news broke that Philip Seymour Hoffman had passed away from a heroin overdose.  Like many, I was sad – he was a great character actor.  I’m not going to lie and say it shattered my world or anything (for instance, I still haven’t come to grips with Chris Farley‘s death), but it sucked.  He was great at creating memorable background characters, which is an art unto itself.  Even if you didn’t know him or couldn’t name any of his characters, when you saw him, you said “Oh, that guy”.

So, to sort of get my feet wet here without simply regurgitating reviews from my own movie review site (cheap plug: macatthemovies.wordpress.com), here’s the updated spin on a 1998 film he was in that really embodied what he was good at: crafting a character that you remember…whether you want to or not.

Spoiler Free Plot Synopsis

Members of a dysfunctional family all seek their own brand of happiness, sometimes (often) with disastrous results.

Kick Ass Moments:

“Kick Ass” is used somewhat loosely here, but here are two standout scenes that will give you an idea of just what we’re dealing with here.

My Take:

What is happiness?  Ultimately, that question lies at the root of this film.  It appears that, in the writer’s mind, happiness is something dark, disturbing and best left alone.

Happiness” tells the stories of a dysfunctional family and those who come in and out of their lives and their various pursuits of that elusive happiness.  Those who actively seek it tend to be the most miserable while those who seemingly have it all tend to be the furthest from it.  Along the way, they trash the lives of those left in their wake and each other – all while searching for some sort of joy in life that they either can’t achieve, won’t allow themselves to enjoy or don’t recognize when they find it.

A nihilistic look at the quest for happiness, the film offers up some truly disturbing moments – at times crossing the line between “raw” and “crass”.  There are some watershed moments and some strong performances, but overall these are the interwoven tales of lovable losers at best and a pack of degenerates at worst – most of whom the viewer either doesn’t care about or actively hope DON’T find happiness.

While the story-telling and, indeed, the story, may turn a lot of people off, the acting is superb across the board.  Philip Seymour Hoffman once again manages to endear himself to you while turning your stomach at the same time.  Dylan Baker also stands out as one of the most uncomfortable characters I’ve seen in a film.  Kudos as well to Cynthia Stevenson who takes what could have easily been a lost role and brings a certain grace to her powerlessness.

Recommendation:

This is a film worth seeing if you’re the sort of person who can handle being uncomfortable for an hour and a half.  Do NOT let the title trick you into thinking this is some sort of date movie – it isn’t.  Or maybe it is, depending upon your date…that’s on you.

In short, if you’re looking for happiness, look elsewhere.

SHARE
Larry Mac was born and raised in Cleveland – yet another calamity to befall that once proud town. He grew up with roleplaying games because video games weren’t invented way back then and has since devoted himself to music, movies and anything else that distracts him from what passes for his real life. After realizing that his years as a working-class computer nerd had made him bitter and miserable he decided to be a writer, so here he is – ready to tell you why “Sharknado” is a better film than “Gone With the Wind” and why painful dental procedures are better than “Old Boy”.