"Todd Solondz's Happiness is a film that perplexes its viewers, even those who admire it, because it challenges the ways we attempt to respond to it" wrote critic Roger Ebert in his Chicago Sun-Times review on october 23d in 1998 and he adds "Is it a portrait of desperate human sadness? Then why are we laughing? Is it an ironic comedy? Then why its tenderness with these lonely people? Is it about depravity? Yes, but why does it make us suspect, uneasily, that 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. Whenever a serial killer or a sex predator is arrested, we turn to the paper to find his neighbors saying that the monster 'seemed just like anyone else.' Happiness is a movie about closed doors--apartment doors, bedroom doors and the doors of the unconscious. It moves back and forth between several stories, which often link up. It shows us people who want to be loved and who never will be - because of their emotional incompetence and arrested development. There are lots of people who do find love and fulfillment, but they are not in this movie."
"Joy (Jane Adams) is the classic Solondz misfit - think Dawn Weiner in Dollhouse all grown up. Turning 30 and directionless, she has a perpetual deer-in-headlights look, a frustrated songwriter toiling away at telephone sales. But she's not a total loser; she has the power to dump her fat, melancholy suitor (Jon Lovitz in a great cameo) as the film opens.
Helen (Lara Flynn Boyle) is a beautiful, famous writer whose problem is that everyone loves her ("You don't know how exhausting it is to be wanted all the time," she says). Then there's Trish (Cynthia Stevenson), a housewife who tells everyone she "has it all" - two kids and, joyously, no sex with her psychologist husband."
I'm still waiting for the perfect dvd edition of this perfect but politically incorrect movie. Happiness celebrated its dvd premiere way back in 1999 from Trimark Pictures (Review). New Line re-issued it as part of their Signature Series in 2003 but with no remarkable extras, picture and sound quality. If you take a look at the dvd being published down under by Good Machine or in the Netherlands there's nothing worth writing about them. Finally, the german edition of Todd Solondz' movie has been out of print for several years. But at least you can catch the UK version from Entertainment Video which provides an artificial menu style.