A husband-and-wife team play detective, but not in the traditional sense. Instead, the happy duo helps others solve their existential issues, the kind that keep you up at night, wondering what it all means.
I ♥ Huckabees (known usually as I Heart Huckabees but also as I Love Huckabees) is a 2004 philosophical comedy film from Fox Searchlight. It was produced and directed by David O. Russell, who co-wrote the screenplay with Jeff Baena.
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Albert Markovski (Schwartzman) is a young man who heads the local chapter of an environmental group, the "Open Spaces Coalition." One of their current projects is an attempt to stop the building of a new Huckabees store, a chain of "big-box" department stores akin to Wal-Mart or Target (Mike Huckabee was the governor of Arkansas, Wal-Mart's home state, at the time of the film's release). Albert is a rival of Brad Stand (Law), a shallow power executive at Huckabees. Brad infiltrates Open Spaces and charismatically displaces Albert as the leader. Dawn Campbell (Watts) is Brad's live-in girlfriend and the face and voice of Huckabees; she appears in all of the store's commercials.
After seeing the same conspicuous stranger three times, Albert contacts two existential detectives, Bernard and Vivian Jaffe (Hoffman and Tomlin). The detectives offer Albert their optimistic brand of existentialism—they name it universal interconnectivity (this has some tenets of romantic or even transcendentalist philosophies)—and spy on him, ostensibly to help him solve the coincidence. Bernard and Vivian introduce Albert to Tommy Corn (Wahlberg), an obsessively anti-petroleum firefighter. Tommy is assigned to Albert as his Other.
Tommy grows dissatisfied with the Jaffes, feeling that they are not helping him. Seeking out other possibilities, Tommy ends up abandoning and undermining the Jaffes by introducing Albert to Caterine Vauban (Huppert), a former student of the Jaffes who espouses a seemingly opposing nihilistic/absurdist philosophy. She teaches them to disconnect their inner beings from their daily lives and their problems, to synthesize a non-thinking state of "pure being." Being lifted from their troubles, they wish to keep that feeling forever, yet she tells them that it is inevitable to be drawn back to the human drama, and to understand that the core truth of that drama is misery and meaninglessness. Feeling somewhat upset after realizing this, Caterine and Albert leave Tommy to go and have sex in the woods. Tommy finds out about the two of them being together and feels hurt, Caterine tells him that they found each other through all the of the human suffering and drama, Tommy rejects this idea and leaves them furious and lost.
Meanwhile, in Brad's further attempts to undercut Albert, he and Dawn also meet and are influenced by Bernard and Vivian. However, his plan backfires when the detectives probe Dawn and him, causing Dawn to reject her superficial iconic status as a beautiful model and him to realize that his whole ascent in the corporate ladder is meaningless, as he has lived his whole life just trying to please others and not himself.
All the storylines collide when Brad's house is on fire. Tommy comes to put the fire out which has incidentally trapped Dawn inside, and in the process of saving her, the two fall in love. Meanwhile, Brad despairs at the destruction of his house, the symbol of his material success. Albert attains a sort of enlightenment when he synthesizes the two opposing outlooks of the Jaffes and Vauban to realize the cosmic truth of everything. By way of sympathy for Brad, who is now just as dejected and hopeless as Albert was at the beginning of the movie, Albert understands that he and Brad are no different, that everything really is inextricably connected, but that these connections necessarily arise from the often senselessly painful reality of human existence. Having realized this, he turns Brad toward Caterine, in hopes that she will help him as she did to Albert and Tommy. They speak later about everything that has happened to them and Tommy forgives Albert for abandoning him. As the two think, Caterine and the Jaffes watch them, concluding that they can close both of their cases.
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