Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
USA/Germany, 2004. Fox Searchlight Pictures, Qwerty Films, Kanzeon, Scott Rudin Productions, N1 European Film Produktions GmbH & Co. KG. Screenplay by David O. Russell, Jeff Baena. Cinematography by Peter Deming. Produced by Gregory Goodman, Scott Rudin, David O. Russell. Music by Jon Brion. Production Design by K.K. Barrett. Costume Design by Mark Bridges. Film Editing by Robert K. Lambert. Toronto International Film Festival 2004.
Jason Schwartzman is an environmental activist who wonders if his efforts to save a marshland from a big Wal-Martish superstore are really making a difference to the fate of the world. He is pushed out of his coalition to save the marshland by the store’s egotistical corporate executive (Jude Law), an attention-getter more interested in making his company look good than actually saving the environment. Abandoned and alone, Schwartzman is inspired by his coincidentally repetitive run-ins with the same Sudanese doorman to seek out “existential detectives” Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin and have them solve the enigmas of his life’s problems. They, in turn, drag both Law and his supermodel girlfriend (Naomi Watts) onto their case file, while Schwartzman is introduced to another one of their clients, a disillusioned firefighter (Mark Wahlberg at his funniest) who is obsessed with petroleum usage on Earth. The detectives’ work is made more complicated when their nihilistic French rival (Isabelle Huppert, who steals the show) shows up to tell our hero that where his agents think everything is connected and meaningful, she believes nothing is. David O. Russell’s devilishly clever film is one of the most original experiences of the year, a delicious mess that can’t turn a corner without bringing up a thousand ridiculously complicated questions about human existence. The witty dialogue never stops for a second, and while there are times that one wishes the few poignant moments (such as when Schwartzman faces his indifferent mother, played by his real-life mother Talia Shire) were in greater supply, you have to admit it’s rare you see a movie like this, and when you do (Breakfast Of Champions), it’s rarely this good.