Happiness (1998 film)
Theatrical release poster by Daniel Clowes
|Directed by||Todd Solondz|
|Written by||Todd Solondz|
|Music by||Robbie Kondor|
|Edited by||Alan Oxman|
|Distributed by||Good Machine Releasing|
Happiness is a 1998 American black comedy-drama film written and directed by Todd Solondz, that portrays the lives of three sisters, their families and those around them. The film was awarded the FIPRESCI Prize at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival for "its bold tracking of controversial contemporary themes, richly-layered subtext, and remarkable fluidity of visual style," and the cast received the National Board of Review award for best ensemble performance.
Trish Maplewood, the eldest Jordan sister, is an upper middle class housewife married to psychiatrist Bill Maplewood and has three children. She appears to have the perfect marriage, but she is unaware of Bill's secret life: he is a pedophile who is obsessed with 11-year-old Johnny Grasso, a classmate of their son, Billy. When Johnny comes to the Jordan house for a sleepover, Bill drugs and rapes him. Later, Bill learns that another boy, Ronald Farber, is home alone while his parents are away in Europe. Under the guise of attending a PTA meeting, Bill drives to the boy's house and rapes him as well. After Johnny is taken to the hospital and found to have been sexually abused, the police arrive at the Maplewood residence to question Bill. After alerting his wife to the police presence, Bill begins by asking the two detectives, "You said something about Ronald Farber?" The two detectives, looking puzzled, say nothing. Bill then stammers, "I mean, Johnny Grasso." Out on bail, he tearfully admits to Billy that he "fucked" the boys, that he enjoyed it, and that he would do it again. When Billy asks, "Would you ever fuck me?", his father replies, "No... I'd jerk off instead."
Helen Jordan, the middle sister, is a successful author who is adored and envied by everyone she knows, and can have any man she wants. Her charmed life leaves her ultimately unfulfilled, however. She despairs that no one wants her for herself, and that the praise regularly heaped upon her is undeserved. She is fascinated by an unknown man who makes obscene phone calls to her apartment and tries to seek out a relationship with him. But she is disappointed when she finds out the man is her neighbor Allen, to whom she is not attracted. Allen—who is coincidentally one of Bill's patients—sinks into depression as Helen's rejection ruins his fantasies, and he realizes that a woman who truly cares for him, Kristina, has been right under his nose all along.
Joy, the youngest sister, is overly sensitive and lacking direction. She works in telephone sales, but leaves to do something more fulfilling: teaching at an immigrant-education center. Her students call her a scab because their original teacher was striking, and she begins to feel empty in that job too. Joy is also constantly let down in her personal life. After a rejected suitor, Andy, calls Joy shallow at the beginning of the film and then goes on to kill himself, Helen tries to set her up with other men. Expecting to hear from a suitor, she instead gets an obscene call from Allen. Later one of her Russian students, Vlad, offers her a ride in his taxi and they end up having sex. She is initially smitten, but she soon realizes Vlad was using her and that he may be married. After being attacked by his wife and lending him $500 in return for the guitar and stereo he stole from her, she is back to being alone.
Finally, the sisters' parents, Mona and Lenny, are separating after 40 years of marriage, but will not get divorced. Lenny is bored with his marriage, but does not want to start another relationship; he simply "wants to be alone." As Mona copes with being single during her twilight years, Lenny tries to rekindle his enthusiasm for life by having an affair with a neighbor. It is no use, however, as Lenny eventually finds that he has become incapable of feeling. The only person who seems happy at the end is Billy, who throughout the film attempts to make himself ejaculate and finally succeeds after masturbating to a topless sunbather.
- Jane Adams as Joy Jordan
- Elizabeth Ashley as Diane
- Dylan Baker as Bill Maplewood
- Lara Flynn Boyle as Helen Jordan
- Ben Gazzara as Lenny Jordan
- Jared Harris as Vlad
- Philip Seymour Hoffman as Allen
- Louise Lasser as Mona Jordan
- Jon Lovitz as Andrew "Andy" Kornbluth
- Camryn Manheim as Kristina
- Rufus Read as Billy Maplewood
- Cynthia Stevenson as Trish Maplewood
- Justin Elven as Timmy Maplewood
- Lila Glantzman-Leib as Chloe Maplewood
- Gerry Becker as psychiatrist
- Arthur J. Nascarella as Detective Berman
- Molly Shannon as Nancy
- Ann Harada as Kay
- Douglas McGrath as Tom
- Anne Bobby as Rhonda
- Evan Silverberg as Johnny Grasso
Roger Ebert gave the film four out of four stars, and rated it number 5 in his top 10 films of 1998. In his review, he wrote: "...the depraved are only seeking what we all seek, but with a lack of ordinary moral vision... In a film that looks into the abyss of human despair, there is the horrifying suggestion that these characters may not be grotesque exceptions, but may in fact be part of the mainstream of humanity.... It is not a film for most people. It is certainly for adults only. But it shows Todd Solondz as a filmmaker who deserves attention, who hears the unhappiness in the air and seeks its sources."
- 1998 Cannes Film Festival – FIPRESCI Prize, Parallel Sections
- 1999 Golden Globes – Nominated for Best Screenplay (Todd Solondz)
- 1998 National Board of Review, USA – Best Acting by an Ensemble
- 1999 Independent Spirit Awards – Nominated for Best Director (Todd Solondz), Best Male Lead (Dylan Baker), Best Supporting Male (Philip Seymour Hoffman)
- 1998 São Paulo International Film Festival – International Jury Award
- 1998 Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival – Critic's Choice Award: Best Actor – Dylan Baker; Best Film
- 1998 Toronto International Film Festival – Metro Media Award
- 1999 British Independent Film Award – Best Foreign Film, English Language
- 1999 Fantasporto – Directors' Week Award – Todd Solondz
Robbie Kondor wrote the film's score.
The following music is played in the film:
- Soave sia il vento from Così fan tutte (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart)
- Concerto for Guitar in D Major (Antonio Vivaldi)
- "Happiness" (Eytan Mirsky) – Jane Adams
- Requiem (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart)
- Piano Concerto (Samuel Barber), movements I and II
- "Mandy" (Richard Kerr and Scott English) – Barry Manilow
- "You Light Up My Life" (Joe Brooks) – Mantovani and Anatoly Aleshin
- "All Out of Love" (Graham Russell and Clive Davis) – Air Supply
- "Eternal Lighthouse", composed and performed by Vladimir Mozenkov, Lyrics by Yevgeny Davidov
- "Happiness" (Eytan Mirsky) – Michael Stipe with Rain Phoenix
- "HAPPINESS (18)". British Board of Film Classification. October 27, 1998. Retrieved May 29, 2013.
- "Happiness (1998)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved May 29, 2013
- "Happiness – Awards". IMDb. Amazon.com. Retrieved February 6, 2014.
- "Happiness di Todd Solondz: quando la felicità è una chimera…". Published at Cinema 10.
- "Happiness review". Chicago Sun-Times. October 23, 1998. Retrieved September 10, 2008.
- Robert Patrick, Letters from Quentin Crisp, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, The Billy Rose Theater Collection.
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