Written and Directed by Todd Solondz
Todd Solondz’s Happiness is a dark humorous tale of an assortment of rather interesting individuals in the pursuit of their various incarnations of happiness.
The complex group of characters includes three sisters, one of whom is married with a family, the second is an attractive poet, while the third is a struggling musician. Early in the film, the audience is introduced to Allen (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a depressed obsessive man whose psychiatrist, the first sister’s husband, even finds boring. Allen is infatuated with his next door neighbor, the second sister, but has never actually spoken to her. The psychiatrist, Bill (Dylan Baker), sees a therapist of his own and compulsively touches himself while viewing a ‘teen idol’ magazine. This is in addition to the separation of the sister’s parents, who have been married for several years.
Yes, this is only the background information. Though the complexity of the plot is only rivaled by few films, the film is able to retain a sense of coherency and flow.
The characters each seem to embody a trait that society deems immoral; yet, instead of casting these characters as villains, the film allows the audience to sympathize with their struggles. These moments of sympathy create some of the most awkward scenes to have ever graced the screen. Who would have thought the phrase “I came” from the mouth of an eleven year old boy would be one of the most unnerving in cinematic history?
From top to bottom, the acting in this film is superb. Spanning nearly two hours, it seems as though the film never lacks an interesting moment. It’s able to keep the audience engaged throughout; even through the more tense disturbing scenes.
This film is an illustration of how dark a black comedy can go, while retaining its sincerity.