Sony // 2000 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Mitchell Hattaway (Retired) // January 20th, 2006
How far will you go to find happiness?
Allow me to quote the single most important line of dialogue in this film: "If there were a point, there wouldn't be a story."
I couldn't have said it better myself.
When a young woman named Muriel (Shalom Harlow, Melinda and Melinda) goes missing, her sister Amelia (Liane Balaban, Eternal) heads to New Orleans in hopes of finding her. With the help of a former CIA agent named Bill (Clarence Williams III, Purple Rain), Amelia discovers that her sister had been conversing with Eddie Mars, a reclusive, enigmatic Internet philosopher who is somehow tied to an exterminator/pornographer who also happens to be named Eddie (David Arquette, See Spot Run). Eddie is obsessed with completing a softcore flick in which inventor Nikola Tesla and his clone simultaneously make love to the same woman. Tom (Kal Geary, Hysteria: The Def Leppard Story), Eddie's brother, is a fireman who has recently witnessed the death of one of his colleagues. Tom finds himself drawn to Hannah (Gloria Reuben, Timecop), the widow of the fallen fireman. As Amelia and Bill close in on the truth, the lives of these individuals will cross in ways they never could have foreseen.
You can forget everything you just read in that poorly-worded plot summary, because none of it matters. The thin, quickly-forgotten plot is the least important aspect of this movie. The characters don't much matter, either. To tell you the truth, I'm not sure exactly what is supposed to matter. If you held a gun to my head and pressed me for an answer, I suppose I would venture that writer-director Michael Almereyda (Najda) was only concerned with creating an abstract, dreamlike mood. That's all well and good, but there's one major problem: With the exception of the opening and closing minutes, which are testaments to the power of film editing, this movie is a boring, inert, pretentious mess.
The majority of the running time of Happy Here and Now consists of scenes in which the characters sit around and do nothing more than spout faux-intellectual claptrap. Despite the fact that Almereyda has several films under his belt, this one comes across like the work of a film school student who is trying to impress his/her ex-hippie instructor. (Although it predates both, this movie, plays like a cross between Mulholland Dr. and I Heart Huckabees, but without the intelligence, style, or drive of either.) Maybe there's an audience for a movie in which David Arquette (who was also one of the movie's producers) puts on a cowboy hat, adopts one of the worst Louisiana accents you'll ever hear (and thankfully vanishes about halfway through), and endlessly ruminates on the sex life (or lack thereof) of philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal, but I have to admit that I'm not part of that audience.
Any movie this pretentious and self-satisfied is bound to supply a few unintentional laughs, and this one is no exception. I got a good chuckle out of the scene in which Williams walks around New Orleans holding some unidentified piece of electronics equipment that obviously came from Radio Shack, hoping to locate the source of Mars's Internet transmissions, which he somehow manages to accomplish despite the fact that Mars isn't actually transmitting anything. Then there's the scene in which visits Amelia visits a pirate radio station run by some of her sister's friends and is treated to a musical performance by one of the station's proprietors, who plays some weird instrument of his own making. This in itself isn't terribly funny, but the fact that the instrument resembles Jane Fonda's spaceship from Barbarella is. (You'd think the local cops would go down to Radio Shack, buy the same device Williams uses, then find the pirate radio station and shut it down, but I guess it never crossed their minds.) And remember what I said about the movie Arquette's character wants to make? Why anyone would believe there is a market for softcore porn flicks involving Nikola Tesla is beyond me. That being said, this idiotic idea does lead to an incredibly funny bit in which the huge Tesla coil prominently displayed in the background of the skin flick's pivotal scene begins sparking wildly and sets fire to the set. For as long as I live I will never forget the look on Arquette's face as he furiously beats at the blaze with his cowboy hat, only to have the hat burst into flames. Priceless. (This whole Tesla and his clone business leads me to believe Almereyda has read Christopher Priest's The Prestige, which is an infinitely better work than this movie could ever hope to be.)
The transfer here is more than a little soft, but I'm sure this is at least partially intentional, as it lends a hazy, ethereal quality to the proceedings. Aside from that, the video is perfectly adequate. The Dolby Surround track won't exactly wow you, but it performs its job nicely. Dialogue is always clear and intelligible, and the music (both the score and the songs sprinkled throughout) is very well conveyed. The mono surround channel is primarily used to deliver music and ambiance, although it does kick in with directional effects on a few occasions. The only extras are several previews for other Sony releases, most of which promise to be real clunkers.
No point, no story, no reason to recommend it.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2000
MPAA Rating: Rated R