I (Heart) Huckabees
(Reviewed September 25, 2004, by James Dawson)

Color me pleasantly and completely stunned. (What a feeling!)

I went into "I (Heart) Huckabees" fearing that it would turn out to be nothing more than an unimpressive, second-rate, Charlie-Kaufman-wannabe journey into pointless weirdness-for-weirdness'-sake. I left the theater thinking it was one of the very best movies of the year. (Also, it is one hell of a lot better than this year's "real" Charlie Kaufman movie, the thoroughly disappointing "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." Go figure!)

Any description of the "Huckabees" plot is guaranteed to make this film sound absurd, bizarre, convoluted and intellectually preposterous. All of which it is, but in a good way.

Jason Schwartzman is an angry, disheveled environmentalist who is being squeezed out of his own "Open Spaces" organization by gladhanding slickee-boy Jude Law, who works within the Huckabees department store empire that is encroaching on a local marsh. Schwartzman enlists two "existential detectives" (Lily Tomlin and a fright-wigged Dustin Hoffman) to explain coincidences that he says are befalling him, and to make some sense of his rapidly deteriorating life. Meanwhile, firefighter Mark Wahlberg is having a crisis of faith over society's refusal to give up petroleum, and Huckabees spokesmodel Naomi Watts decides she wants to dress like an Amish woman in the company's TV ads. And then there is Isabelle Huppert, a rival to Tomlin and Hoffman who has her own ideas about how to get people in touch with their personal realities...ideas which primarily involve getting hit in the face.

If that paragraph hasn't scared you away from buying a ticket, you will be in for a genuine treat. "I (Heart) Huckabees" is unlike any other film released this year. It is brainy but ridiculous, and fun but sometimes actually moving. It's a genuine one-of-a-kind experience.

How good is it? All during the movie, I kept thinking, "Damn, I hope this just goes on and on and is nowhere near the end yet." Then it ends with the absolute best last-line of any movie I've seen this year. I loved it!

Further proof: When I came home from seeing an advance screening on a Friday, I had another free screening pass in my e-mail inbox for three days later—and I'm going again!

Back Row Reviews Grade: A