That's like calling Requiem For A Dream: "Smiles".
These characters are anything but happy, they are freakin' foul, miserable bastards and yet... it feels like they could just be real people you would meet in everyday life and never even imagine what perversions they'd be hiding. Think of Happiness as the Magnolia of perv movies: an ensemble of brilliant actors playing messed-up weirdos each going through their own uncanny plot. Except here they don't all come together through Aimee Mann songs and frogs but instead are all linked together through this one family.
Think Hannah And Her Sisters... with extra cum shots.
The film begins with an awkward break-up scene where Jane Adams and Jon Lovitz brilliantly set the mood for the rest of piece: smart and funny but dark as hell and kinda unpleasant. We're introduced to Philip Seymour Hoffman's Allen, a sweaty fellow with a penchant for calling up random women from the phonebook and pestering them with nasty sex talk. We also follow Dylan Baker's family man Bill, a seemingly regular guy and exemplary father but in fact a pedophilic monster. As you can imagine, his scenes are particularly unsettling and hard to watch. In lesser hands, the subject matter would have no doubt alienated everyone and received damning reviews but director Todd Solondz, by making the character human (without justifying his actions in any way of course) and through his twitsted-ass sense of humour, gets away with it. Baker's impressive, intimidating performance also helps. Then there's Jane Adams, reprising her role as Niles' girlfriend from Frasier Season 8 (not really), who gives a perfectly stressed-out performance as Joy, a character who should really be a serial killer when you look at what she goes through everyday but is just a normal, if very unlucky, gal.
It's a spot-on cast and Solondz' solid direction makes Happiness a truly unique experience. This really is one that shouldn't have worked but which miraculously gets it completely right, the film's geniusely disgusting and awkward final scene ends things appropriately underlining the point that, as people, we are just inherently confused, cruel and foul, the trick being to not let that take over us completely.
Beautifully made, flawlessly acted, this is a film you won't forget in a hurry... although parts of it you'll wish you could forget.
But you won't lol
An ensemble masterpiece.