HAPPINESS (1998)

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Elizabeth

I really wanted Chris to watch Happiness because I love it, and it’s a hard movie to talk about with people, because it’s a hard movie to get people to watch. And if they don’t watch it, they don’t want to hear about it.

Of all the stories interwoven into Happiness, the one that always sticks with me the most is that of Bill (Dylan Baker), the father/husband/therapist/pedophile. With as much as I love Lolita, too, I’ve kind of noticed that fictional pedophiles tend to fascinate me. It sounds awful to say, but it’s true. Bill is the perfect example of realistic evil: he supports his family and is otherwise a pretty stand-up citizen, except that he rapes young boys. He’s not the cut-and-dry, through and through evil guy that fiction often portrays; he’s the kind of evil you see on true crime shows: a perfect guy, except for the streak of blackness that clouds everything else. And I really think the final conversation between Bill and his 11 year old son, Billy (Rufus Read), who’s friends with Bill’s victims, is one of the most powerful, strange, uncomfortable, and heartbreaking conversations between a father and son I’ve seen in a film.

That’s not to say any of the other stories are any less fascinating or tragic. All the stories and characters are strong and compelling, a hard thing to accomplish with roughly 10 characters and a film spanning over 2 hours. But Todd Solondz does it, and I think Happiness is his best film.

But please, be careful who you watch this with.

Christopher

Happiness had me pretty uncomfortable for most of it, well, really only during the pedophile portions, and especially whenever he talked to his son. Other than that, and that’s not to say that those scenes are not interesting, I really enjoyed this film. My favorite parts where when it made me laugh. This usually happened with the music. For being the kind of movie that it is, the music was so spot-on with its awkwardness. Whenever a scene would end uncomfortably or sad the next scene would start off with a kind of “but everything is just peachy” music. The other part of this film I found humorous is found in a chubby lady that shows up in the Philip Seymour Hoffman scenes. The whole movie is definitely worth it when you finally hear her story. I was really hoping to watch True Stories tonight, which we will hopefully watch soon and post, but this was a fine replacement. Though not as silly as True Stories, it definitely kept my interest and I highly recommend it.

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