Happiness

Bomb Rating: 

It's Todd (Solondz's) responsibility as a representative of the socially disenfranchised to make sure regular people never get a handle on his genius because if they did, he'd be intellectually disenfranchised and quickly back to square one.

Todd Solondz's whole goal in life is to be annoying. Undoubtedly, thisis the result of a tumultuous and traumatic childhood during which he was constantly ridiculed by his peers. I bet Todd turned to the one kid's ass he thought he could kick to garner some respect and ended up underneath the quad's wheelchair pleading for his life. Failing the demands of respect in the physical world, Todd turned to the life of the East Coast artistic elite so he could look down his nose at everybody in sight (Hell, he even declined to do a Mr. Cranky interview).

Being the darling of the film festival circuit, Todd's characteristic response to most questions is to let out an annoyed, whiny exhale, and ramble tangentially until the audience forgets what the question was. It's Todd's responsibility as a representative of the socially disenfranchised to make sure regular people never get a handle on his genius because if they did, he'd be intellectually disenfranchised and quickly back to square one.

"Happiness" is a series of intertwining stories about the social and sexual frustrations of a whole bunch of people who, like Solondz himself, become more annoying the more you watch and listen to them. You couldn't find more dysfunction at an Alcoholic Drug Abusers of Divorced Parents group therapy session. There's Joy Jordan (Jane Adams), her parents (Ben Gazarra, Louise Lasser), and her two sisters, Trish (Cynthia Stevenson) and Helen (Lara Flynn Boyle). Then there's Helen's neighbor, Allen (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), and Trish's husband, Bill (Dylan Baker), who also happens to be Allen's therapist. Joy's a doormat. Her parents are miserable. Helen lacks emotional authenticity to the point that she invites an obscene phone caller to her house, not knowing it's her pathetic neighbor, Allen. Then there's Bill, who puts on the good husband show for Trish, but is actually molesting the friends of his young son.

The two most important "shots" of the movie -- the two where Solondz was probably on set, giggling uncontrollably in a corner somewhere -- are 1) Allen ejaculating onto a wall while talking to Helen and 2) Bill's son finally achieving manhood by spooging onto a rail. Ah yes, it's the irony of suburban happiness, the idea that within every ideal notion of happiness, there's some really pathetic person for whom masturbation is the pinnacle of personal achievement. Then, of course, there's the guy who makes the movie about it.

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