Happiness (1998)

Directed by Todd Solondz

Starring Jane Adams, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jon Lovitz, Dylan Baker, Lara Flynn Boyle, Justin Elvin, Cynthia Stevenson, Lila Glantzman-Leib, Gerry Becker, Rufus Read, Louise Lasser, Ben Gazzara, Camryn Manheim, Arthur J. Nascarella, Molly Shannon, Ann Harada, Douglas McGrath

This movie might as well be called, “Fucked Up,” cause that’s exactly what it is. Todd Solondz takes an unflinching look at the thin contented vineer we hold up to the public, then rips it away and shows all the dirt and ugliness we keep secret, all the need driven human behavior underneath. It’s so disturbing and funny, because you can believe it being true.

Happiness starts out with a date gone horribly wrong. Joy breaks up with Andy (Lovitz) which sparks a public outburst later leading to Andy’s suicide later in the film. Joy’s older sister Trish is in what seems to be the perfect relationship, but she’s actually married to a pederast (Baker) that masturbates to Teen Beat in parking lots in the back seat of his car. Oldest sister Helen is aloof and successful, but unable to find an emotional connection with the men she dates. Intrigued by her stalking neighbor, she invites him over and finds the fantasy much more tolerable than the reality. That being a fat, greasy, pervert who jerks off on the back of postcards and sticks them to his wall.

Happiness is controversial in its irony and thematic exploration of taboo societal issues. Namely Baker’s creepy portrayal as the secret pedophile, which is a brave three-dimensional performance, but nonetheless disturbing. What makes the film so watchable and memorable though, is the director shows that everyone is flawed, everyone unhappy no matter their station in life. Something about that is honest and yet deeply depressing at the same time. Whatever the case, it’s fucking funny.

Other Notable Films by this Director: Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995), Storytelling (2001)

Couldn’t find the trailer, but here’s a clip to prepare you:


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