Albert Markovski (Jason Schwartzman) a bleeding heart poet and staunch environmentalist is convinced a series of unexplained coincidences involving a tall African doorman somehow mean something leading him to married metaphysicians Bernard and Vivian Jaffe (Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin)--otherwise known as the Existential Detectives. Instead of looking for other people this pair tirelessly investigates the mysteries of their clients' secret innermost lives--their "Beings " so to speak--to help them answer their questions. Immediately digging in Bernard and Vivian find out that Albert has a deep-seated hatred for Brad Stand (Jude Law) a golden-boy sales executive at the popular retail superstore chain Huckabees who at first sponsors Albert's Open Spaces Coalition to save a nearby marsh from commercial construction but who ends up taking over the coalition. The Existential Detectives believe Brad may be the key to cracking Albert's case but get sidetracked when Brad hires them for himself--leading them to explore Brad's ambitions hang-ups and his superficial relationship with Huckabees' hot blonde spokesmodel Dawn (Naomi Watts). Meanwhile Albert becomes disenfranchised with Bernard and Vivian and pairs up with another of the duo's clients--firefighter tough guy and uncompromising soul searcher Tommy (Mark Wahlberg). Together they join forces with the Jaffes' arch nemesis sexy French philosopher Caterine Vauban (Isabelle Huppert) whose life teachings revolve around "cruelty manipulation and meaninglessness." Now as Being intermixes with Nothingness Albert Tommy Brad Dawn Bernard Vivian and Caterine get all tangled up in one another as their wild romp through life's biggest questions brings them to some startling truths. Whew!
With such a clever script to back them up it isn't hard to see why the Huckabees wannabes turn in some cracking good performances. Schwartzman once again plays a nebbish sullen but lovable geek (similar to his side-splitting turn in Rushmore) bringing out the film's heart and soul especially with his environmental poetry ("You ROCK rock!"). Veterans Hoffman and Tomlin who are dead-on as the happily married Existential Detectives and Huppert as the deadpan French philosopher complement the proceedings beautifully. For the first time in a long time Hoffman doesn't overplay his part instead letting his quiet inner "Being" out taking his character's philosophies to heart ("Everything you ever desired or wanted to be you already have and are"). But who knew more serious actors--Mark Wahlberg Jude Law and Naomi Watts--could be so excruciatingly funny? Wahlberg's freethinking obstinate firefighter would rather ride a bike to a fire than get into a gas-guzzling fire truck while Watts' Dawn decides she doesn't need to be pretty and is fearless with overalls a bonnet and Oreo cookies stuck in her teeth. As the straight man Law actually has the most difficult part playing the handsome cad who thinks he doesn't believe in all that existential bullcrap but ever so slightly gets slammed with the reality of it anyway.
Writer/director David O. Russell is one fascinating guy. With a body of work including the really weird and wild Spanking the Monkey the hilarious slapsticky Flirting With Disaster and the intense Three Kings it's obvious he is capable of handling a wide variety of subjects. With Huckabees Russell gets into some serious deep thinking. He says he became "intrigued with the idea of a detective following someone around not for any criminal or personal intrigue but rather as part of a very serious investigation about existence itself " drawing concepts from several different strains of existentialism--from the non-dual interconnectedness theories of Eastern philosophy (Bernard and Vivian's take) to the Sartrean notions of a more meaningless universe that demands a profound individualism (Caterine's point of view). Huh? Don't worry your pretty little heads about it too much. Russell's bone-crushing sense of humor comes shining through--as does his unique vision as the camera is used in new and different ways (especially creative when Albert is trying to find his "Being")--to piece together a wondrous coherent albeit thought-provoking little gem. Oscar gold awaits.
Talk about your pulp fiction: Director Quentin Tarantino, already a force in the world of movies, is breaking into books. Tarantino's novel version of Kill Bill, a movie he's shooting for Miramax, has had its publishing rights picked up by Talk Miramax Books, Reuters reports. The book will be released next spring, while the movie, starring Uma Thurman, Daryl Hannah, Lucy Liu and David Carradine, will be released in the fall of 2003.
A lawsuit concerning the death of country music star Tammy Wynette has ended in a secret out-of-court settlement. Wynette's four daughters sued Wynette's doctor for $50 million, claiming Dr. Wallis Marsh had mismanaged the case. Wynette died of heart failure at the age of 55 in 1998.
The Duchess is getting out of York--almost. Fergie, the former aforementioned Duchess of York, had been sharing a house with her ex-husband, Prince Andrew, because she was in debt. Not one to completely spread her wings and fly away, the WeightWatchers spokeswoman is moving just a few miles down the road from Randy Andy's Sunninghill estate in southern England.
In the Biz
Max Payne is moving from the computer screen to the big screen. Shawn Ryan, creator of FX's critically acclaimed show The Shield, has been signed by Dimension Films to adapt the popular video game into a feature-length film. The game revolves around an undercover DEA agent wanted for a crime he didn't commit, which complicates his attempt to avenge the murders of his wife and child.
Elf, the Will Ferrell starrer about a human raised by elves at the North Pole, is about to get a present of its own. Jon Favreau, writer and director of Made, is in the final stages of signing to re-write and direct Elf.
Don't blame Canada, blame the Screen Actors Guild. The Canadian Film & Television Production Association (CFTPA), in defense of its own nationals, states it will fight SAG's attempt to enforce SAG rules on Canadian actors who belong to SAG but work in Canada. ACTRA, the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists, says it will not empower SAG productions outside the United States, The Associated Press reports.
Celine. Shania. Garth. Barry? Following in the footsteps Celine Dion, Shania Twain and Garth Brooks, Barry Manilow will be taping a one-hour concert for CBS, to be aired during May sweeps. The special, titled Ultimate Manilow, shows that CBS isn't above desperate measures.
Susan Dey and Harry Hamlin will be reunited for the first time since their L.A. Law days in Sunday's Disappearance, which will air on TBS. Dey commented on how easy it was to work with Hamlin, saying, "The connection between the two of us was [still] there."
Charity never sounded so good. The roster of VH1's fundraiser VH1 Divas Las Vegas now includes Celine Dion, The Dixie Chicks, Mary J. Blige, Cher and Shakira. The gala show, which will air live on May 23 from the MGM Grand, will benefit VH1's Save the Music Foundation.
The rumors are true: Usher and Chilli are dating. Usher told CNN Thursday, "Yes, we are dating." Chilli, a member of TLC, and Usher have both tasted Billboard's top 10, with Usher's "U Don't Have to Call" currently gracing the list.