I borrowed this movie from my local library not knowing what to expect. It’s probably the best way to see it as it revels in challenging conventional ideas of healthy sex and good family life.
The title is, needless to say, ironic as is the naming one of the three unfulfilled sisters Joy. The movie depicts interwoven dysfunctional lives where true happiness remains elusive.
It is unique in that I can’t think of another movie where three male characters are shown masturbating. The first to come is psychiatrist Bill Maplewood (Dylan Baker) who jerks off to an innocent looking magazine for boys. He is a pedophile whose ‘perfect’ suburban marriage (wholesome wife + three kids) is a sham. Next is Allen (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who is in therapy with Bill because he feels he is world’s most boring man and can only communicate with women by making obscene phone calls while wanking. Finally, Bill’s son Billy, who spends the movie being frustrated at his inability to ejaculate finally does so while spying on a woman in a bikini applying sun cream.
You will gather from this that Happiness is not a movie that will sit well with the Tea Party’s notion of family values. Loneliness would be a more appropriate title, as all of the main characters are unable to find an ideal love match.
My favourite scene is where the fat and frustrated neighbour of Allen (played by Camryn Manheim) tells how she was raped by the doorman and reacted by killing him and cutting him up. She says all this while tucking into a big bowl of ice cream and maintaining it was a crime of passion; “I am a passionate woman” she insists.
The sad, depraved lives of these characters is made deliberately provocative by having this catalogue of immoral, perverted and criminal behaviour take place is a normal, polite suburban setting.
Director Todd Solondz has the kind of warped Lynchian mind I can relate to ; I’m now keen to watch the sequel to this 1998 movie called Life During Wartime which he made a couple of years back.