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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 5/27/99

1998 (1999) - Good Machine/Killer Films (Trimark)

review by Todd Doogan, special to The Digital Bits

Happiness Film Ratings: A

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-, B+, B-

Specs and Features

140 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailers, cast and crew biographies, film-themed menu screens with music, scene access (36 chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0), subtitles: English, French and Spanish

How about the title Happiness for false advertising? Nothing about this flick has anything to do with happiness. An independent, all-star cast presents a weird and wacky look into the lives of a group of people whose lives intersect, even if only on a minor level. There's Helen, a writer who thinks that her own prose is empty, and who becomes titillated by an obscene phone caller. There's the phone caller himself, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman (who is great in a pathetic, "I hope I don't ever, in my life, come off like this guy" way). Helen also has two sisters: Joy (Jane Adams), who can't find any luck with men, be it a taxi driving immigrant (Jared Harris), or a suicidal panty waist (Jon Lovitz), and Trish (Cynthia Stevenson), a housewife who thinks she has everything in life. To be sure, she has one thing: a husband who might have a small problem with young boys.

Leave it to director Todd Solondz, who gave us Welcome To The Dollhouse (which was just as quirky, but in a less malevolent sort of way), to give us another warped look at life. It's pretty hardcore, but very watchable. Don't get me wrong - half of America won't like this flick. But I think anyone who has an interest in writing, people-watching, or acting, should put this film on their "must see" list. It is very well written, and extremely well acted, which makes it feel even more real and important. If you go into Happiness knowing that this is an edgy flick, it will help you enjoy it that much more. I personally like the film, and think it's very funny... in a very evil, truest-meaning-of-black-comedy way. But hey, that's life.

The disc looks pretty damn good. The colors are nice, and the picture only shows a little bit of grain and noise. The audio is a standard 2.0 stereo track, and it sounds very real. Extras are virtually nonexistent, aside from a filmographies section, and two hidden trailers (under the Trimark logo on the menu screen, you'll find Another Day In Paradise and Slam). One of the more fun things on the disc however, is that over the menu screen, you can listen to Jared Harris' Vlad character singing You Light Up My Life. It's just another example of black comedy. Overall, this is a pretty good disc -- a great library title.

Happiness may not be everyone's cup of tea, and anyone who finds that it is, deserves a raised eyebrow. But for people-watchers, this is one of those movies that reminds you that life can be strange, and that the guy next door is even stranger.

Todd Doogan
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