Oh, David O. Russell. The man is completely imbalanced: physical confrontations with George Clooney on set, putting Christopher Nolan in a headlock, going on a tirade towards Lily Tomlin, and arguing with James Caan about whether it's possible to choke and cough at the same time. But say what you will about his stability, he puts out some pretty damn good films.
This week's double feature is all about his deliciously talented imbalance. If you're not up for wildly colorful car racing or crappy-looking weddings in Vegas, maybe some Iraq-set comedy and over-the-top existential intervention is more up your alley. Oh yes, I'm talking about the wildly fun Three Kings and one of my favorite giggle-inducing comedies of all time -- I Heart Huckabees.
I believe I went to see the film for the first time because I was still riding the waves of Jamie Kennedy appreciation (my, how times have changed). A collection of an ER star, Marky Mark, Spike Jonze, and Ice Cube didn't sound like a perfect cup of tea at the time, but man, Russell put together one hell of a film. Soldiers in Iraq come across a map that outlines where stolen Kuwaiti treasures have been hidden, and they plan to grab the goodies for themselves. But the task isn't so simple when they come across civilians in need of saving. That's the gist of the flick, but it is so much more than that.
My favorite description of the film comes from Roger Ebert, who I've quoted here before. Back in 1999, he opened his review of the film with: "Three Kings is some kind of weird masterpiece, a screw-loose war picture that sends action and humor crashing head-on into each other and spinning off into political anger." That's just what it is -- this gem you expect to be simple, but backs much more punch than you could have imagined. And considering the turmoil between Clooney and Russell, it's amazing that it came out as well as it did!
Mad humping. NSFW
No chance to snap into a Slim Jim.
Marky Mark gets around.
Before popping into an even wackier world, it's only fitting to watch David O. Russell go ballistic.
The big Huckabees blow-up.
I Heart Huckabees
Albert Markovski (Jason Schwartzman) wants answers. He's being plagued by troubles at work and strange coincidences, so he hires two existential detectives (Lily Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman), who believe in universal interconnectivity, to find the answers to his big life questions. But not even this part of his existence goes smoothly. The insidious Brad (Jude Law) from Huckabees inserts himself into Albert's environmental group and existential journey, while Albert befriends Tommy (Wahlberg), a confused firefighter, and Brad's girlfriend becomes disillusioned. Oh, and the nihilstic Caterine (Isabelle Huppert) then joins the mix to go against the existential teachings and get Albert to revel in chaos.
It's insane, and makes little sense, but that's the beauty of it. Huckbees is a comedy of chaos and ridiculousness that is played so seriously that it comes off perfectly. It can be enjoyed for its ludicrous statements about philosophy just as much as the physical humor that permeates each scene.
This was Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin's first film together, but they almost came together on film much earlier. They were the original choices for Popeye and Olive Oyl in Robert Altman's film.
Britney Spears auditioned for Naomi Watts' role, and Gwyneth Paltrow was originally attached (but had to back out when her father died).
Albert is loosely based on Russell, and Hoffman's Bernard is modeled after Russell's mentor, Robert Thurman -- Uma's dad.
Dinner with the coincidental, religious family, which includes a young Jonah Hill.
We're all part of the blanket.
Huckabees bloopers. NSFW