Happiness (1998)

happiness

A collection of loosely connected suburbanites come come to terms with their own flaws and failings in their quest for elusive “happiness”.

Todd Solondz’s tragicomedy no doubt met with shock and outrage from the moral majority and it is hard not to suspect that he was deliberately baiting the religious right with material that is so close to the knuckle. These characters suffer rejection, isolation, insecurity and sexual frustration at the hands of their peers and even when handed their fantasies, the result is nothing less than crushing disappointment. His attitude appears to be that social awkwardness begins at the age of 11 and continues into old age and we all seem utterly powerless to do anything about it; we’re born, we’re miserable and we die. A lot of us will find it hard to disagree but not everyone will be able to see the funny side of rape and child molestation.

The closest comparisons I can think of are the likes of Magnolia and American Beauty, but Solondz takes these ideas to their most extreme and so therefore Happiness will only be to the taste of a small minority. But those who can stomach it will find some reward in this bleakest of the bleak black comedy that’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.

6/10

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