There so many terrific elements to Happiness.
Yet, it remains uncomfortable to view because of the odious nature of the
one of the dominent story threads. The black comedy succeeds with surprising
Writer/Director Todd Solondz who exhibited an
unusual life point of view in Welcome to the Doll House, his previous
feature film, actually ups the stakes with this pastiche of suburban values
clashing with the painful realities of individuals dealing with their own
typical family dinner, right. ©
The Jordan sisters are at the center of
Solondz's world. Joy can't seem to settle anything in her life. Trish
appears the most normal sister living a quiet suburban lifestyle married to
psychiatrist Bill, but under the surface explosive desire is about to upend
their lives. Helen Jordan is a successful author. Parents Lenny and Mona
Jordan are living out their senior years in sunny Florida, still dealing
with the dysfunctional elements of their lives. Throw in Allen, an
overweight, lonely patient of Bill's obsessed with Helen, Vlad, a Russian
cab driver, and Diane, a hungry divorcee, and the Solondz stew comes to a
Despite the complex story-line, director Solondz keeps a
tight reign on the project. Pacing between the intertwined fragments is well
balanced into a thoroughly engrossing structure.
It's an excellent ensemble cast. Dylan Baker is hauntingly
pathetic as Bill. Phillip Seymour Hoffman brings characteristic discomfort
to Allen. Louise Lasser and Ben Gazzara are hilarious as the senior
An excellent DVD transfer reveals all the details of
the Solondz world with garish accuracy. Solondz shot Happiness is
bright hues and strong defining colors. It's all here on the DVD. The video
is very sharp. You can look into the eyes of the characters and begin to
understand on a deeper plane. There are no evident artifacts whether from
enhancement or the limitations of the NTSC system. Dolby Digital 2.0
surround is adequate.
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