Extraordinary existential investigations yield mixed-up results
Albert (Schwartzman) determines to deduce the meaning of a string of coincidences, and hires a pair of Existential Detectives (Hoffman, Tomlin). They snoop around his bathroom and his metaphysics, micro-analysing his life. His nemesis is golden boy Brad (Law), who’s scaling the ladder at superstore chain Huckabees, where his pin-up girlfriend Dawn (Watts) is spokesmodel. Albert finds a soulmate in earnest firefighter Tommy (Wahlberg), and this odd couple fall under the spell of the detectives’ rival, French philosopher Caterine (Huppert). Got that? Soon, Albert and Caterine are having sex in the mud, Brad is unravelling and Dawn is questioning her looks. Albert and Tommy almost find a kind of peace, embracing “pure being”.
Huckabees is like no other film you’ve seen. Russell, having broken big with Three Kings, delves back to the clever, dark zaniness of Spanking The Monkey and Flirting With Disaster in this… farce? Essay? Debate? Tragicomedy? Perhaps the wordiest movie released this year, it’s full of ideas, non sequiturs and puzzles, and insanely inspired. Many scenes will knock you sideways, and among a stellar cast Watts and Wahlberg, stretching themselves, are excellent. Law tries too hard; Hoffman and Tomlin good-naturedly send up their personae.
Whether it all hangs together to construct anything durable is yet another question. Though it starts like a runaway train and just gets faster, Huckabees at times trips over its own ambition. Do we care for these freaks? Many may lose patience, as with Soderbergh’s equally cerebral Schizopolis, and you wish maybe Charlie Kaufman had edited the confusing script, which is a forked path off Being John Malkovich remixed by Magritte.
It’s certainly mind-blowing, with some unforgettable trippy imagery. The interior of Albert’s head is a stew of envy, lust and fear. He and Tommy beat each other across the head with a spacehopper till they “stop thinking”. Shania Twain’s a running joke, till she cameos. Tippi Hedren swears. Points are made about petroleum, ecology and “cruelty and manipulation”. It’s a true one-off. But, like, what’s truth?