August 21, 1998 at 04:00 AM EDT

Happiness

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
R
performer
Dylan Baker, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Lara Flynn Boyle, Jon Lovitz, Camryn Manheim
director
Todd Solondz
genre
Drama, Comedy

STARRING Dylan Baker, Lara Flynn Boyle, Jared Harris, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jane Adams, Cynthia Stevenson, Ben Gazzara, Louise Lasser, Camryn Manheim

DIRECTED BY Todd Solondz

Perhaps it was the pedophilia story line. Or maybe the ejaculation scenes. Universal Pictures isn’t commenting, but about two months ago, the studio forced its subsidiary October Films to jettison Solondz’s follow-up to his 1996 indie darling Welcome to the Dollhouse. Which came as quite a surprise, since Happiness got raves at Cannes and brought home the International Critics Prize. Now Good Machine, the company that coproduced the film with funding from Universal, will take on the distribution duties. ”Todd’s not just going for the sensational,” says Baker, who portrays the child molester. While pedophilia isn’t the only theme — the story revolves around three sisters dealing with love and lust in New Jersey — the taboo subject also hampered the film early on. After some A-list actors, including Gary Sinise, passed on the pedophile role, Solondz had to cut his $5 million budget in half. ”I hope I don’t have to go through this again,” says Solondz. ”But in the end, Universal paid to make this movie. So I’m glad.” (Oct. 16)

THE LOWDOWN A movie this bleak needs help — a Cannes prize, controversy, and Solondz’s name in the credits certainly won’t hurt.

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