View Full Version : Happiness

11-18-2003, 12:51 PM
Todd Solondz has a great sense of humour.

Happiness. This is a film I watch a lot. It grows on you more and more with each viewing.

It is a series of glimpses into the lives of really bizarre characters.

Jon Lovitz gets dumped by Joy- a doe-eyed substitute teacher. How does he respond? with:"You think I'm pathetic. You think I'm shit. Well I'm not shit. I'm CHAMPAGNE!"

Thus begins Happiness- a masterpiece of human relationship dysfunction. It had me laughing on a constant basis. (Now I watch it for the acting).
Philip Seymour Hoffman is the shining star of this film. He is nothing short of staggering. Just when you think there's no one sicker than him, his character meets his overweight neighbor who murders their buildings' doorman after he rapes her in her apartment.

That's all I'm gonna spoil for anyone reading this.
It gets worse.
Much worse.
Solondz has a lot in common with John Waters.

oscar jubis
11-18-2003, 01:36 PM
Originally posted by Johann
Solondz has a lot in common with John Waters.

J. Hoberman calls it "cinema of cruelty" and I agree. Waters is more compassionate, even affectionate towards his characters. I think Solondz has more in common with his contemporaries Neil LaBute and Gregg Araki.
By the way, Solondz followed up this great film with the barely watchable Storytelling. Here's hoping Palindromes is a return to form.

11-18-2003, 02:54 PM
Waters seems to embrace the darker undertones of humanity, while Solondz may want to expose them in a way. Welcome to the Dollhouse was more of an embrace perhaps than Happiness. American Beauty always seemed like the mainstream rip off of Happiness, atleast in tone. Anyone else feel that?

oscar jubis
11-18-2003, 08:41 PM
Originally posted by pmw
Waters seems to embrace the darker undertones of humanity, while Solondz may want to expose them in a way. Welcome to the Dollhouse was more of an embrace perhaps than Happiness.
I see your point.

American Beauty always seemed like the mainstream rip off of Happiness, atleast in tone.
What I realized after a second viewing of American Beauty is the extent to which Mendes steers audience sympathy towards Lester as opposed to the downright nasty presentation of Carolyn(Annette Bening). It bothers me a bit now. Smacks me as misogynic.
What the film has that Happiness does not is a cinematographer like Conrad Hall. The Tahiti-born Hall passed away last January.

11-19-2003, 12:39 PM
I agree that Waters embraces his characters (he and Divine are/were inseperable).
Solondz can be viewed as a "cinema of cruelty" czar, but with the overwhelming humour in Happiness I have to wonder if he is holding up a mirror or making a satire.

Welcome To The Dollhouse is more disturbing to me than Happiness because he focuses on one young girl, where Happiness is a who's who. It's almost too much to take after one viewing. He makes scenes of horrifying bluntness. You feel trapped in front of the screen- like watching Jerry Springer or Maury Povich- is this shit for real?
An unbelievable character study...

02-02-2004, 09:49 PM
I agree with the praise for HAPPINESS here. I absolutely loved this film. It definitely has that dark sense of humor buried beneath the disturbing situations, but what I like most is the non-judgmental attitude Solondz takes toward his subjects. He just shows the characters doing what they do, and that's that--no extra attempts to adjust the viewer's attitude towards the characters.

I also agree with the comparison to John Waters, but I do think Solondz is far more subtle and trying to send out more of a message than Waters was/is. I think Waters just makes movies for the fun of it (not that there's anything wrong with that--I love John!), while Solondz has much more feeling behind them.

But I haven't seen Storytelling yet... Why didn't you guys like it? I don't really know anything about that film yet...

03-04-2004, 07:06 PM
Oscar says Storytelling is barely watchable but Ebert raved about it, saying he saw it three times in a row.

I still haven't gotten around to checking it out. I'm off tonight. Time for a trip to casablanca video...I'll post about it as soon as I see it.

oscar jubis
03-04-2004, 11:24 PM
A film that ellicits a wide range of responses, with Ebert and Rolling Stone's Peter Travers as most prominent defenders. It's two shorts, Fiction and Non Fiction, that are presented as a feature based on common themes already known to those familiar with Solondz' movies. The twist here is that the characters (or caricatures, to be more accurate) are storytellers (like the auteur) or people acting under similar pretenses to get laid, get attention, etc.

A sample of what's in store. A goofy kid with cerebral palsy and his grrrlfriend are having ackward sex in the opening scene. He bemoans that, now that she is kind to him, "the kinkiness is gone". They are students enrolled in a creative writing class taught by a large black man, Mr. Scott, who has published a book titled "A Sunday Morning Lynching". He takes pleasure in humilliating his students, especially the most vulnerable ones. The girl comes on to Mr. Scott. During sex, he insists on fucking her in the ass and wants her to call him "nigger". (A large red block obstructs our view, Solondz' solution to MPAA demands that the scene be cut in order to receive an "R" rating). The girl finds the experience repulsive. She decides to write about it.

From the movies directed by Solondz this is his most personal, nastiest, but least rewarding one.

03-08-2004, 02:38 AM
Damn... That sounds a little, uh, out there... even for Solondz... Nonetheless, I'll give it a go one of these days anyway just because I loved his other movies. Thanks for the comments on them though...

03-08-2004, 11:36 AM
I'm still trying to decide how I feel about Storytelling.
I know what Solondz is doing but I don't know if I like it.
The scenes at the dinner table while the family discusses the virtues of Hitler are very blunt reminders of the Solondz mind.
I didn't have to see this movie. You don't either.

You won't be bored, that's for sure...