"It's good that we had this talk. Before things went too far...you know, got too serious."--Joy Jordan (Jane Adams) to Andy Kornbluth (Jon Lovitz) "Yeah...(long pause]...are you sure'"--Andy "Yes."--Joy "Is it someone else'"--Andy "No, it's just you."
"I bore people. People look at me and get bored. People listen to me and they zone out. Bored. 'Who is that boring person,' they think. 'I have never before met anyone so boring.'"
- Allen (Philip Seymour Hoffman) to his therapist Bill Maplewood (Dylan Baker)
"I'm just so tired of being admired all the time."
- Helen Jordan (Lara Flynn Boyle) to her sister Trish Maplewood (Cynthia Stevenson)
"Well, I may 'have it all' [makes quote marks in the air] but, you know, sometimes I wonder what my life might have been like if I'd actually tried to write a novel."--Trish to Helen "I'm sure it would've been good."
"Don't feel guilty."--Diane Freed (Elizabeth Ashley) to Lenny Jordan (Ben Gazzara), after they've kissed "I don't. I don't feel anything."
"We all have our pluses and minuses..."
- Allen to Kristina (Camryn Manheim), after she's confessed to a heinous crime
"So was Mrs. Paley sick, honey'"--Trish to her son Billy (Rufus Read) "Well, everyone said she was just too strung out..."--Billy "Now why do people say things like that'"--Trish "Because she's a drug addict."
"I'm not laughing at you...I'm laughing with you."--Helen "But I'm not laughing..."
Sight and Sound - 03/??/1999
"...HAPPINESS stretches its taboo subject matter to the limits..."
Rolling Stone - 10/29/1998
"...Unique and unmissable....HAPPINESS is potently funny and painfully affecting, often at the same time..."
Entertainment Weekly - 11/06/1998
"...Tender, shocking, cathartically honest....Solondz leaves us giddy....Breaks through to haunted levels of erotic compulsion that place it close to the hypnotic artistry of BLUE VELVET..." -- Rating: A
Box Office - 07/01/1998
"...A superb black comedy....HAPPINESS leaves viewers feeling disturbed, amazed, and fascinated..."
Premiere - 11/01/1998
"...[A] marvelous, multifaceted, and endlessly unsettling third feature....[Solondz is] an imaginative, witty, and deeply subversive filmmaker..."
Los Angeles Times - 10/16/1998
"...Solondz has an impeccable ear for current speech patterns....He also has a gift for skewering self-centeredness..."
Total Film - 07/01/2003
"...Blackly comic, yet touching and sympathetic, it never flinches in its depiction of human darkness..."
Building on the darkly comic angst of WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE, Todd Solondz's HAPPINESS conveys suburban desperation and frustration on a larger scale than his previous film. The ensemble cast of characters centers around the lives of three sisters: Joy (Jane Adams), an awkward, naive, and unlucky musician; Helen (Lara Flynn Boyle), a beautiful, self-obsessed writer; and Trish (Cynthia Stevenson), a conservative housewife who is married to Bill (Dylan Baker), a psychiatrist harboring an unhealthy fascination for young boys. Other dysfunctional characters include the sisters' unhappy parents, Lenny and Mona Jordan (Ben Gazzara and Louise Lasser), and the lonely, sex-obsessed Allen (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who lives next to Helen and goes to Bill for therapy.
At once both scathingly funny and shockingly bleak, HAPPINESS addresses subjects that most films are afraid to touch, including pedophilia and masturbation. Unapologetic and unflinching, Solondz's film features bold performances from the entire cast and makes for uneasy but intriguing viewing as it peers behind the fragile facade of the American dream.
HAPPINESS fleshes out its grim stories through graphic portraits of aberrant relationships and individual obsessions. The film, centered around three sisters who struggle with the monotony of bourgeois life, leaves the viewer both laughing and gasping, hopelessly reaching for explanations for the behavior of the characters and the cruelty of their uncompromising circumstances. Pedophilia and dark sexual and psychological fantasies are featured as director Todd Solondz (WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE) drags each player in this brightly colored yet depressing party to the brink of their insecurities with marvelous precision and without qualm. The strong cast features Philip Seymour Hoffman, Dylan Baker, Lara Flynn Boyle, Ben Gazzara, and Louise Lasser.
HAPPINESS premiered at the New York Film Festival on October 9, 1998.
Following the failure of his first feature film, writer-director Todd Solondz, like Joy in HAPPINESS, began teaching English to immigrants in New York City.
In 1998, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ben Gazzara both starred in HAPPINESS and THE BIG LEBOWSKI, though the actors never appear onscreen together in either film. Hoffman starred in four more films that year (including NEXT STOP WONDERLAND and FLAWLESS), while Gazzara appeared in seven other films (including BUFFALO '66 and ILLUMINATA).
Molly Shannon of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE appears as one of Joy's (Jane Adams) telemarketing coworkers.
Producer Christine Vachon once referred to HAPPINESS as a "nonjudgmental film about a pedophile."
Michael Stipe of R.E.M. and Rain Phoenix, sister of River and Joaquin Phoenix, perform the song "Happiness" over the closing credits.
HAPPINESS was called a "pageant of misery and yearning" by Richard Corliss of Time magazine.