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I guess it is an indication of the "rep" of David O. Russell, the director of Three Kings, that the lead female role in his new movie, I Heart Huckabees, was first claimed by Gwyneth Paltrow who had to drop out and was replaced by Nicole Kidman, followed by Jennifer Aniston and finally Naomi Watts. I think only Julia Roberts is missing from this Hollywood A-list. Of course, this may also be an indication of the total chaos that is I Heart Huckabees. The plotline of this all-over-the-place film is not easily summarized but it tells the story of a troubled environmentalist (Jason Schwartzman) who hires a pair of existential detectives (Dustin Hoffman & Lily Tomlin) to figure out some coincidences in his life. Schwartzman has made a deal with the devil with an executive (Jude Law) of the Huckabees company to try and save a marsh. Law lives with the "face" of Huckabees (Naomi Watts) who appears in all their commercials. Schwartzman also befriends a troubled firefighter (Mark Wahlberg), and is trailed by a mysterious competitor (Isabelle Huppert) of Hoffman and Tomlin. After that it gets a bit foggy.
I Heart Huckabees is an infuriating film. It has an amazing cast and they are all great, and there are a lot of entertaining scenes, but this film is a mess. Three Kings, which was Russell's first big film, was unusual and interesting in style, but it had a good storyline and stuck to it. No such storyline is evident in I Heart Huckabees. I said the cast was great and they are. I loved Jason Schwartzman in Rushmore and he is just as good here. Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin are gods. Isabelle Huppert is a goddess in France. Naomi Watts can eat the scenery like no one else, and Mark Wahlberg can almost make you forget Marky Mark. Oh did I forget Jude Law, a.k.a. the hardest working man in Hollywood? He can play anything. I Heart Huckabees is worth seeing just to see all these great actors bouncing off each other, but they are just doing what great actors do which is to rise above the material.
I Heart Huckabees does have a great setup which is the idea of existential detectives who try to detect what is wrong with your life. But it all goes off the rails somehow. The script seems to have got lost and the direction is certainly lost. It's a very fine line. Even if you have a surreal story like I Heart Huckabees, the characters have to seem real. Rushmore is a good example of a really weird film that worked for me because the characters played by Schwartzman, Bill Murray and Olivia Williams felt real to me even though they were in a very unreal story. But for some reason, I couldn't identify with anyone in I Heart Huckabees. So instead, I was left to appreciate the cast sacrificing themselves on the barricades to save this film. They couldn't save it but it's worth seeing it just to see them try.