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.