Movie Reviews - Featured Films » Independent Film Guide - H

Happiness Movie Review

solondz todd minutes sodomizes

After watching 90 minutes of Happiness on a screening room floor, our esteemed colleague Andrea Chase sensibly announced that she'd had it and left. I stuck it out for the remaining 49 minutes and staggered out into the sunshine, desperate for fresh air and for Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. It is reassuring for me to think about Andrea Chase instead of Todd Solondz's Happiness, because she is real and his latest critical triumph is a sham. It is comforting for me to consider the virtues of Buffy because she represents goodness and strength in a murky, wimpy world. Apparently it is a source of ecstasy for most international critics to look down on New Jersey as the cesspool of the universe. I suspect that most have never been there. They are not like and do not know anyone like the people in Happiness, therefore all is well and good on our planet. Happiness is about pedophiliac psychiatrist Dr. Bill Maplewood (Dylan Baker), who arouses himself with teen beefcake magazines, drugs and sodomizes his 11-year-old son's classmate, Johnny Grasso (Evan Silverberg), and then sodomizes yet another classmate before law enforcement authorities finally catch on. It's about a large woman who cuts her doorman into little pieces and freezes them after he rapes her. Its about a sexual stalker who makes calls to fantasy objects who then lose their allure for him when he actually approaches them. It's about Joy Jordan (Jane Adams), a lonely and very bad songwriter wracked with guilt after she dumps loser Andy Kornbluth (Jon Lovitz), who only succeeds at killing himself and blaming her. After that, Vlad the Russian thief (Jared Harris) looks like an ever-so-tempting alternative. There was a core of sweetness to Welcome to the Dollhouse. Solondz genuinely liked some, if not all, of the characters in Dollhouse (his second feature; 1989's Fear, Anxiety and Depression was the first) and there was a moral compass lurking on the margins of the story. However bizarre the worlds of, say, David Lynch and John Waters, their films are not long sociopathic rants. There is good and evil in the world and we never forget the difference. Solondz was quoted in Newsweek as saying, “If the audience looks at Happiness and says they're freaks, I've failed.” There is nothing but horror in Happiness and eventually, if you don't tune out, you immunize yourself to 139 minutes of ugly despair. For expatriates who detest American culture, Happiness may be a comedy, but for me, the screening room became a virtual torture chamber, with some of the cruelest father-son dialogues ever filmed, including a harsh nine-word exchange I hope I can forget someday. Don't feel guilty if you skip Happiness: I wish I had! It's a real “Triumph of the Will” for N.A.M.B.L.A. members (North American Man-Boy Love Association).

1998 139m/C Jane Adams, Dylan Baker, Lara Flynn Boyle, Ben Gazzara, Jared Harris, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jon Lovitz, Cynthia Stevenson, Elizabeth Ashley, Louise Lasser, Camryn Manheim, Anne Bobby, Evan Silverberg; D: Todd Solondz; W: Todd Solondz; C: Maryse Alberti; M: Robbie Kondor. VHS

Happy Together Movie Review [next] [back] Hangin’ with the Homeboys Movie Review

User Comments

Your email address will be altered so spam harvesting bots can't read it easily.
Hide my email completely instead?

Cancel or