Isolation… alienation… happiness. In America they all go hand in hand. Buy a new TV and you will be happy. Still not happy? Experience alienation. Can’t afford a new TV? Then live in isolation. “Be happy”, and if that doesn’t work, pretend to make it work. For the characters in Todd Solondz’ award winning, subversively funny film “Happiness”, the struggle to attain such a state is fraught with perils both heartbreaking and hilarious.
1998 – Certificate: 18 – American Film
Rating Details: Adult theme, strong sexual references, language and sex
8.5 out of 10
The National Lottery spoilt my day today and it was going so well too. It started off sunny. Then I drove to Berkhamsted, which included a slow selection along the M4. This provided me with a golden opportunity to open all the windows and ‘educate’ my fellow motorists in what good music sounds like, whether they wanted educating or not. It’s never too early in the day for some noisy punk rock. I then passed my MiDAS trainer/assessor reassessment. This means I can continue to train people to drive minibuses in my own, inimitable style. (e.g. “Just put your foot down.” “It’s not your vehicle, so don’t worry.” “You’re not paying for the insurance.” “You’re bigger than they are.”) I then drove home again with the windows open. This time there was no slow section, so thanks to a large articulated lorry I no longer need to tidy up the interior of my car, as all the rubbish in it suddenly got sucked out of the window as the lorry went past. Then I got home and opened a letter from the Disclosure and Barring Service, which was happy to report that I’m not a pervert or a weirdo; at least not one that’s been caught anyway. But then the Lottery spoilt my happiness by rejecting a funding application I’d made for a project. For the second time! Bloody hell! I even buy two lottery tickets every week by Direct Debit. That should guarantee success. (Then again, I don’t know why this surprises me. In the 19 years it’s been running, I’ve bought one or two tickets virtually every single week and personally never won more than £10; and that’s not happened more than a few times either. I’m relying on a Lottery jacket win to act as my pension too.) My failure was highlighted in some nonsense about insufficient evidence of need. I guess interviewing every single person on the whole planet about the project and finding that all 7,164,915,211 of them supported it and would benefit from it, wasn’t sufficient. Still, I’ve been invited to reapply if I can provide more information. It’s lucky I’ve just got my DBS Certificate, as I’m now going to need to hang about in various maternity wards and try to consult with some babies as they come out of the womb, as just about everyone else has already expressed an opinion. It’s not the rejection that hurts, (well okay it is really), but the fact that some of my colleagues north of the border seen to be able to provide enough evidence for similar applications, by simply stating that they think the project they’re apply for money for would be “nice”. This doesn’t make me very happy. It’s so easy being Scottish. We have to work hard in the South East of England for everything. I think a career as a diplomatic would suit me better. That would make me much happier too. This is a film about happiness.
This is a sick film. It’s exactly the sort of perverse movie that the DBS should ask about before issuing Certificates. It’s also very funny, in a blacker than black way. There’re loads of reviews of it on the Internet, half of which say it’s great and the other half say they walked out of it after 15 minutes because it was so “disgusting”. Despite its reputation as a bit of a dodgy film, it’s also surprisingly moving and very well acted. I think I like it as it features a load of people who think they’re happy but actually they’re not, yet they still are in a rather strange way. I like to see people bought down to my level. It’s a movie for grow-ups you should watch. You can always use a pair of sharp scissors to cut the DVD in two if you don’t like it. (But remember to take care with the scissors, especially as DVDs can suddenly shatter into sharp pieces when stressed. I’d advise you wear gloves and goggles too, just in case.)
There is a soundtrack but it’s pretty unmemorable. Music is sparsely used, although when it is it does support the action nicely. On many occasions it’s used more as an element in the scenes themselves, rather than simply as background ‘noise’ to build tension or whatever. Michael Stipe does sing the theme song though.
Recommended for weirdos. (Sorry, I can’t be arsed to write anything else.)
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? At the start of the film, Allen strikes a blow for downtrodden men everywhere, with his “I’m Champagne” tirade. Admittedly he picks on the somewhat weedy Joy as the target for his ‘stand’, but nevertheless he knocks the ball right out of the ground. Yeah; men rise up and take back your birth right! No more will we be under the thumb of woman-kind! Reclaim the mighty sword of masculinity and trousers of relationship power! (Do I come across as sounding bitter or twisted at all?)
Storytelling is comprised of two separate stories set against the sadly comical terrain of college and high school, past and present. Following the paths of its young hopeful, troubled characters, it explores issues of sex, race, celebrity and exploitation…
2001 – Certificate: 18 – USA
7.5 out of 10
On the walls in my office at work are maps of the eight counties that make up the South East of England. (By the way, I’m not looking now to debate if Sussex is one or two counties, or if the Isle of Wight is one or not, so if you don’t like the number I’ve come up with please feel free to substitute your own; and anyway, I haven’t actually put up the maps for two of them yet, as there’re some old filing cabinets in the way that someone was meant to have got rid of ages ago but hasn’t). The point of them is so when someone rings and starts talking about a detail of his/her tiny village somewhere, I have a chance of actually being able to find it quickly, seeing where it is relative to other places and not sound like I don’t have an intimate knowledge of every part of the 7,373 square miles of the South East. The latter seems to be what most people assume and then get all defensive about when I ask something like, “where exactly is Deeping Minor?” Near the edges of these maps is written stuff that I simply translate as “here be dragons”. I believe these to be blasted, post apocalyptic wastelands, inhabited by mutants, aliens and huge, people-eating monsters. I never go there but I’m pretty sure that’s what it’s like. (Okay, London runs along much of the top of the maps, but really, it’s so small and anyway in its own way it’s full of even weirder stuff.) I have a new boss at work, my fifth in under seven years; (I guess I must be a nightmare to manage). I had to go and visit him last week in his village, a place called Norwich. This is so far away it wasn’t even on the maps. I thought you just fell off the edge of the world if you went that far, but apparently not. The journey took days. It started on a (fairly) modern train and ended with an uncomfortable trip in the open wagon of a local journeyman, who spoke a strange Middle Earth dialect and was selling reeds for thatching; (he was probably a mutant too, but I didn’t like to ask). On reaching my destination I was confronted by a small, blue hut by a muddy river. I was ushered into a tiny room with a cup of some weird, local beverage, where my new manager was waiting. With hindsight, I believe the drink to have included some sort of witch-doctor truth serum. My new manager is a giant, at least thirty feet tall, which somewhat confirmed my suspicions about the conditions to be found beyond the South East. Ever heard or read stories about people confessing to crimes they didn’t commit? I used to think they must be very weak-minded. However, after my long journey and then over 20 hours of non-stop interrogation about what we do in the South East, work-wise, I was ready to agree to anything, just to get away. For some reason I now find myself with financial targets even ExxonMobil would be happy to achieve, so I guess I’m going to be a real bitch-from-hell manager to my team this year. This film is also about telling stories and interpreting life though the prism of a parallel, fictional narrative; or something.
This darkly funny movie is actually two films joined together. One features the students in a creative writing class and the other a would-be documentary maker. They don’t have anything to do with one another, except that push the overall point of the film along, which seems to be to highlight the hypocrisy of how people react to different things, based on how society perceives them rather than simply as a reaction to absolutely how good or bad they are. This is a very dense film in the sense that there’s a real mesh of subtexts and other stuff under its surface. I recommend Goolging it if you want to find out more about them. However, simply on a superficial level, (which is where I generally spend my time), the movie works. It provides plenty of nuanced, flawed characters for us to like, despise, relate to or misunderstand; a set of dysfunctional people trying to do more (and sometimes less), than they’re capable of and failing to realise, whilst getting lost in maze of political correctness and self-importance. Well worth watching, especially for the ‘did he/she just say/do that?’ moments. I watched the uncensored version; that’s the one that doesn’t have the big red rectangle over the ‘rude bits’, which itself was used as a statement by the Director.
Recommended for people who enjoy seeing others fail; not so good for the less-than-liberal middle-classes, who find anything less that PC perfection to be on a level equivalent to the Holocaust.
1 cat, no chainsaws or decapitations. A lovely grey and black stripy cat gets a brief bit of ‘lap-action’, but overall I felt it was very underutilised. A wasted opportunity.
Top badass moment? I’m not for a moment suggesting it’s something anyone else should look to emulate and she was a bit of a nutter on the quiet, but Consuelo’s way of dealing with unemployment was an interesting and radical departure from the norm. A definite bit of thinking outside the box badassness.