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I Heart Huckabees, also known as I Love Huckabees, and written as i ♥ huckabees, is a 2004 comedy film from Fox Searchlight. It was produced and directed by David O. Russell, who co-wrote the screenplay with Jeff Baena. The film reunites Russell with actor Mark Wahlberg; they had previously worked together on the 1999 film Three Kings. The film also reunites Russell with actress Lily Tomlin; they had previously worked together on the 1996 film Flirting with Disaster.


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-Martmarker or Target (Mike Huckabee was the governor of Arkansasmarker, 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.

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.

In an interview with the Suicide Girls website, director David Russell said in response to the question "How do you describe I Heart Huckabees?":

Here’s how I described it to the people who financed the movie.
Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin are existential detectives who you could hire to investigate the meaning of your life.
They are formal, they wear suits, they are Paris-trained and their clients include Jude Law, Naomi Watts, Jason Schwartzman and Mark Wahlberg.
Their nemesis is Isabelle Huppert.
Hilarity ensues.


Supporting characters


The film opened October 1, 2004 with a $73,044 per screen average in New York and Los Angeles . Critical opinion for the film was mixed. The film was rated 61% "fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes. Some critics were displeased with the overabundance of existential subject matter and an unfocused script, while others celebrated its strong performances (especially Mark Wahlberg as Tommy Corn) and originality.

Despite some harsh reviews, the film has drawn a cult following since its initial release and has performed well in DVD sales.Worldwide box office taken in for the film is $20,072,172 as of June 2009.


In an advertising campaign for the film, four fictional websites were created. They were portrayed as if they were actual websites involving the characters and organizations featured in the movie. Each website had a link called "Disclaimer" at the bottom that leads to FOX Searchlight's official website for the film. Websites were rendered inactive a few months after the film's release, each now redirecting to FOX Searchlight's website.
  • The Huckabees Corporation (archive): The "official" website for the chain of Huckabees stores. Featured the store history, announcements, three television ads featuring Dawn Campbell and a banner promoting the Huckabees collaboration with the Open Spaces Coalition.
  • Open Spaces Coalition (archive): This website described the importance of the marshlands Albert Markovski is trying to protect, ways of aiding the cause. The site also contained poetry written by Markovski and downloadable flyers.
  • Jaffe & Jaffe, Existential Detectives (archive): The website promoting the Jaffes' detective agency. It explained the methodology of the detectives, had two case studies and an online questionnaire.
  • Caterine Vauban (archive): The website of Caterine Vauban, author of "If Not Now". The site contained reviews and excerpts from the book.


Jon Brion provided the score and seven original songs for the film. His unique methods for writing previous film scores (Punch-Drunk Love, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) involved very close collaboration with the director. Through this process, David O. Russell was able to sit in the same room with Brion and watch an early cut of the film. Russell described what he wanted to portray and Brion would compose music to Russell's descriptions. The process can be seen on a featurette on the film's special edition DVD.

David O. Russell, while working with Brion, had come across Brion's first solo album, Meaningless. Russell has mentioned that Brion's album asks similar questions to the ones Russell was trying to ask with I Heart Huckabees. In particular, Russell notes that the questions on Meaningless are closer to the questions directed from Caterine Vauban's negative and dark point of view.

Many cues in the film were used with a Chamberlin, a keyboard instrument from the 1950s that replicates instrumental sounds using recorded tape.

An audio segment from the film was used in the song 'This Time Last Year' by English Post-rock band Maybeshewill on their 2009 album 'Sing the Word Hope In Four Part Harmony.'

Visual effects

The home-grown visual effects for this film were done on three Macintosh G5 systems by Russell Barrett, Scott Puckett and Joe Kastely.

Tension during filming

In March 2007, two videos were leaked onto YouTube revealing major on-set arguments between David O. Russell and Lily Tomlin. The first video is footage of a scene in a car containing Tomlin, Dustin Hoffman and Isabelle Huppert in the front of the car with Mark Wahlberg and Naomi Watts in the back seat. Russell cannot be heard, but Tomlin is repeatedly shouting angrily at Russell's direction. At one point, Tomlin attempts to get out of the car; at another, she tells Watts and Hoffman to "shut the fuck up". The other actors in the scene remain mostly silent throughout the video, except Hoffman, who suggests they carry on shooting the scene. The car scene was never used in the final film.

In the second video, a scene is being filmed in the Jaffe detective offices. Tomlin, Hoffman and Jason Schwartzman are present. Russell gives Tomlin direction until Tomlin criticizes Russell's directing style. The video is then cut to moments later when Russell rises from the floor and shoves props off of the desk Tomlin is acting behind. Russell shouts obscenities at Tomlin, storming off the set, only to come back a short while later. The argument between the two briefly continues until Russell exits the set again, knocking over a coat rack on his way out.

When the Miami New Times asked Tomlin about the videos during an interview for her upcoming performance at the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts, she responded, “I love David. There was a lot of pressure in making the movie—even the way it came out you could see it was a very free-associative, crazy movie, and David was under a tremendous amount of pressure. And he’s a very free-form kind of guy anyway.”

See also


  1. Levantine Newsletter Fox Searchlight - I Heart Huckabees - Official Site :: :: Reviews :: I Heart Huckabees (xhtml) I Heart Huckabees (2004) I Heart Huckabees (2-Disc) DVD: Dustin Hoffman, Isabelle Huppert, Jude Law, Jason Schwartzman, David O. Russell
  2. I Love Huckabees :: Film Review :: ABC Tasmania I Love Huckabees - Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry - New York Magazine Movie Review I Heart Huckabees (2004)
  3. SuicideGirls > Interviews > David O. Russell
  6. What a Character - She's had her brush with online infamy. Now Lily Tomlin is ready to make you laugh again at Miami New Times online

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