|I (Heart) Huckabees: Ginger and Fred Do Psychology|
Twentieth Century Fox Home Video (DVD), ASIN B0006TPE4M
The female detective gains a fraternal twin when Lily Tomlin pairs up with Dustin Hoffman. As co-dependent psychologists, these two prove once again that professional gurus make merry with everybody else's crises. Tailing their clinical investigations, we suddenly realize that comedy -- unlike tragedy -- offers its practitioners a future.
Here, the lady once known as Ernestine displays that rare talent found also in Nashville (1975), Nine to Five (1980) and Tea with Mussolini (1999). The genius of Midnight Cowboy (1969), Tootsie (1982) and Meet the Fockers (2004) does equally well as straight man or crack-up expert, of course. Their comedic perspective provides the centering from which these existential partners look down on the strictly nebbish -- anyone who takes him (or her) self too seriously.
Hoffman supplies her perfect complement in explaining wickedness as -- let's face it -- sheer stupidity. As a professor of nosiness, he sprints right after his high-stepping professional colleague, challenging garbage cans and spraying spigots as courageously as she does. The two move in such graceful tandem that they function as the Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire of middle-aged neuroses.
Hoffman solos, however, with his blanket routine. Satirizing every philosophical system that oversimplifies life on the fly, he props a white tarpaulin over his hands. These, then, become bouncing manifestations of life -- you, me, or even birds and frogs. His blanket demonstrates the unity of all phenomena. Simultaneously, his gestures evoke the incomparable genius of a Charlie Chaplin.
Just as Chaplin scored points against Hitler by playing The Great Dictator (1940), who bounced the globe like a ball, so Hoffman offers us the philosopher as mime. Both performers show us a reality where intellectuals specialize in the absurd. In these portraits, we recognize counselors who keep pocketing gain from pain. Tomlin and Hoffman shepherd their own patients, by contrast, like spoiled children.
In return, their extended clinical family relies on these proxy parents to tell them what they already know. Life may not be a ball of cherries, but hope remains for spaghetti or ravioli. This generous Mom and Pop show tolerates whining, bragging, and endless proclamations of innocence. No one can be completely innocent, though, with Tomlin and Hoffman as their foster relatives.
They lead us straight through the commonest foibles like spirit guides. For psychology raised to the level of art, keep Tomlin and Hoffman in your sights. They grant us the benefit of the doubt: Even in our sleep, we're funny. We just don't remember the divine comedy until we see ourselves in their inspired grins.
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