John Brion i heart huckabees Review

Released 2004.  

BBC Review

Nihilism has never sounded so lovely.

Morag Reavley 2004

Who are we? Why are we? And what the heck is an existential comedy? i heart huckabees, David O. Russell's inventive Sartre and shopping film, explores questions which have been vexing humanity since Plato was in short trousers.

Albert Markovski is an environmentalist waking up to a chain of coincidences which seem to have some strange connection to Huckabee's retail executive Brad Stand. A pair of 'existential detectives' probes the circumstances and the philosophies of the protagonists, in a staggeringly complex and self-reflexive plot. Frothy, feel-good entertainment this film is not.

So it's a relief that Jon Brion's poppy, trippy soundtrack is anything but ponderous. Which is not to say it lacks gravitas. Melodic and accessible, his score manages to be both uplifting and deeply disconcerting, leavening the films existential angst, yet heightening our feeling of dislocation.

Brion returns to the psychotropic retro fairground sound he used to such great effect in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: think the Beach Boysmeet The Magic Roundabout. With liberal use of glockenspiel, harmonium and mouth organ, it sounds like Brion found his instruments in a playgroup toy box. There's even a Mighty Wurtlitzer in there.

Familiar sounds and rhythms are distorted, turned inside out. Pieces such as "Monday", "True To Yourself" and "Strangest Times", for example, rearrange popular dance melodies -waltz, salsa, tango, Latin American ballroom- to orchestrate the narrative's fancy footwork.

There are some great songs, many of which do not feature in the film. Brion himself provides the vocals, his reedy, pained tones the epitome of existential angst. The jaunty melodies sugar over the desperation of the lyrics. Take "Over Our Heads", for instance: 'So what, you're never understood? Big deal, you're going to die. Nothing ever lasts, it all gets torn to shreds. If something's everlasting, it's over our heads.' Nihilism has never sounded so lovely.

A soundtrack to take to your heart.

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