Happiness (1998)

"Todd Solondz's film Happiness is disgusting, vile, grotesque. Horribly like life, in fact. The bastions of moral probity at the Daily Mail will revile it when it opens here next month, just as it has been attacked in the US, but it is a bleak, quirky, excruciatingly embarrassing movie that deserves to be seen"

All the characters in Happiness are screwed up: all searching for love, sex, workable relationships, comfort, psychological stability, happiness. You will probably recognize yourself somewhere in the picture. All are doomed not to find it; instead they learn to make do. There is a lot of masturbation, but not much sex; the prototypical gleaming American housewife claims to have it all but actually has nothing. Her perfect husband, Bill, who in this dysfunctional world is of course a shrink, lusts after their son Billy's 11-year-old playmates. Bill wants to play too, and does, drugging and sodomising one of them, and making an unspecified assault on another. 

 "Happiness" is a film that perplexes its viewers, even those who admire it, because it challenges the ways we attempt to respond to it. Is it a portrait of desperate human sadness? Then why are we laughing? Is it an ironic comedy? Then why its tenderness with these lonely people? Is it about depravity? Yes, but why does it make us suspect, uneasily, that the depraved are only seeking what we all seek, but with a lack of ordinary moral vision? In a film that looks into the abyss of human despair, there is the horrifying suggestion that these characters may not be grotesque exceptions, but may in fact be part of the mainstream of humanity.
It is not a film for most people. It is certainly for adults only.


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