Movie Review: I Heart Huckabees

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I Heart Huckabees is an American comedy-drama released in 2004. The philosophical movie was directed by David Russell and produced by Scott Rudin, Gregory Goodman, and Russell himself. I Heart Huckabees is a self-named existential comedy featuring detectives, namely, Lily Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman, who are hired and obligated to investigate the meaning of the life of Jude Law, Mark Wahlberg, Jason Schwartzman, and Naomi Watts as their clients. In the course of their duty, Isabelle Huppert, a rival as well as nemesis, attempts to influence the clients to her perception of their lives. According to King (2008), the major philosophical theme evident in the film is existentialism and the meaning of life. Moreover, the movie tends to illustrate the philosophical battle existing between interconnectedness and individualism, idealism and conventional stardom, and meaning and futility. The plot revolves around Albert Markovski (Jason Schwartzman), a young leader of the local environmental group called Open Spaces Coalition. In his endeavors, he coincidentally runs into the same stranger on three different occasions. Albert then contracts Vivian Jaffe (Lily Tomlin) and Bernard (Dustin Hoffman) as existential detectives. The detectives would help him understand existentialism and the meaning of his life following a series of coincidences (Russell, 2004).

Various incidents in the movie lead to numerous questions concerning personality and existentialism. One wonders whether the concept of personality is valid and exists. The answer to this question lies in the actual meaning of personality. According to Engler (2009), personality is what makes people who they are. It involves a set of individual differences, including skills, values, personal memories, habits, and attitudes that distinguish one person from the other. Personality is closely related to the concept of existentialism, which begins with the human subject, including their thinking, feeling, acting, and living human individual. The quest for personality and existentialism begins when Albert experiences a series of coincidences that make him doubt the meaning of his life. According to Crumbaugh and Maholick (n.d.), the starting point of existentialism is the existential attitude, which involves a state of discombobulation and disorientation in the face of a meaningless world. The subsequent doubt and inherent confusion lead Albert to hire existential detectives to help him find meaning in his life. From the perspective of interconnectedness, as illustrated in the movie, personality is an invalid concept that does not exist. Towards the end of the movie, Albert concludes that he is not different from Brad; everything, though complex, is connected (Rainer, 2004). The connection is a function of the painful reality of the existence of human beings. Therefore, while personality defines the distinct values and attitudes of each person, these aspects are interconnected in a way that invalidates personality.

Whether or not personality shows when one is being observed relies on the type of observation- covert or overt. I Heart Huckabees illustrates the case of overt observation, where Bernard and Vivian Jaffe are hired by Albert to spy on him. The duo later introduces Tommy as Alberts other- much like a control experiment. However, in the course of the observation, Tommy grows dissatisfied with the services of the Jaffes and introduces Caterine Vauban instead (Russell, 2004). Evidently, Tommy knew he is being observed. His knowledge of this may have created a situation where he only shows the Jaffes the side he wants them to see and hide the most vital aspects of his personality, and this can be used to justify Tommys undermining of the Jaffes and the feeling that they were of no help to him and Albert. In this case, it is evident that personality may not show when one is overtly observed as they would suppress most of the aspects of their personality for fear of reproach or negative feedback. On the other hand, a great deal of a persons personality may show when they are placed under covert surveillance. The fact that they are completely unaware that they are being observed makes them act as they would in a natural environment, exploiting their personality fully. Even so, while observing people without their knowledge is the only way to ascertain their personality, it is an invalid form of personality assessment. Covert observation heavily infringes on a persons privacy and contravenes all the ethical codes that vouch for full privacy and anonymity (Mischel, Shoda & Smith, 2004). The form of personality assessment exposes the inner secrets of a person, thus, leaving him or her vulnerable and gullible to manipulation and blackmail suppose such invaluable secrets find their way into the public domain, especially in this era of hacking. In some jurisdictions, such forms of assessment are only permitted in cases where the person is deemed a threat to security and the lives of others. Even so, the covert personality observation remains an invalid form of assessment.

Any natural environment, or the perception of it, is highly likely to reveal the full personality of a person. Therefore, when one is at home alone or in his or her car, for instance, his or her personality may show regardless of the situation. The natural environment or personal space induces the sense of satisfaction through peace of mind. It encourages a person to exploit his or her personality fully since he or she is cognizant of the fact that no one is watching. Just like Tommy may have perceived, both his personality and Alberts may not show when they know the Jaffes are watching every move they make, thus, rendering the whole point of spying invalid. Arguably, a persons personality may show when he or she are alone in any place, including in his or her car or house.

Personality assessment and therapy involves the formulation, implementation, analysis and interpretation of the results of quantitative examination of psychological variables such as personality traits, intelligence, and aptitude. Caterine Vauban illustrates one means of personality therapy when she teaches Tommy and Albert to delink their inner beings from their day-to-day lives and the challenges they face with a view to synthesizing the non-thinking state of pure being (Russell, 2004). In the course of the therapy and quest to prove her point, Caterine goes to extreme steps of engaging in sexual intercourse with Albert in the woods. Personality assessments gauge a persons preferred way of being, which starts from the state of pure being that Caterine explained to Albert and Tommy. The available means of personality assessment are based on the type of trait. Trait-based assessments facilitate the accurate comparison between two individuals. The Jaffes tried to use this form of assessment on Albert when they introduced Tommy as his other. Examples include the Big Five Factor, 16PF, and OPQ. Type-based personality assessment measures the healthy differences between people, especially the inborn preferences, including DISC, MBTI, FIRO-B, and Myers-Briggs.

Both formal and informal means of personality assessment have been controversial regarding validity and reliability (Holzman & Sarason, n.d.). Validity denotes whether the assessment yields accurate results concerning the personality constructs that they claim to measure. The major undoing of the assessment criteria is that they depend on the willingness and honesty from the respondents when presenting reports on their personality (Msichel, Shoda & Smith, 2004). Openness and levels of honesty are difficult to gauge. Similarly, it is foolhardy to declare the results measured under such circumstances valid. While some of the instruments and mechanisms have proven to be accurate, their validity still is uncertain. According to Holzman and Sarason (n.d.), projective personality assessment tests have also been criticized for lacking objectivity because they highly depend on the subjective judgment of the therapists. On a similar note, whether a valid assessment of who a person is can be found by observing them in their personal space such as a car or their behavior in their houses highly relies on the nature of the observation. As explained, overt observations are relatively invalid and unreliable given that apart from heavily relying on the openness and honesty of a person, such assessments may return deceitful results since the person may only choose to show the assessor what he or she wants the assessor to know and hide the rest of his or her personality aspects. Conversely, if the observation is covert, it bars the person being observed from trying to uphold the public standards of appropriateness, thus, revealing their personality. When one is alone in their house, for instance, they are devoid of public judgment since the house keeps them from the prying eyes of the public, which highly influences their personality and behavior.

References

Crumbaugh, J.C., & Maholick, L.T. (n.d.). An Experimental study in existentialism. Journal of Clinical Psychology: John Wiley and Sons Inc.

King, M. (2008). I Heart Huckabees. The American Cinema of Excess: Extremes of the National Mind on Film. McFarland, 153157

Mischel, W., Shoda, Y., & Smith, R. E. (2004). Introduction to personality: Toward an integration. New York: John Wiley&Sons.

Holzman, P.S., & Sarason, I.G. (n.d.). Personality Assessment. Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/science/personality-assessment

Engler, B. (2009). Personality Theories. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

Russell, D.O. (2004). I Heart Huckabees. New York: Qwerty Films. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UU3AWF7P0Ho&t=15s

Rainer, P. (2004, April 4). I Love Huckabees - Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry. New York Magazine Movie Review.

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