The married sister’s husband is a child molester who drugs his family so he can rape a sleep-over boy. Then there's Philip Seymour Hoffman, huffing and puffing his unhealthy way through the phonebook, abusing unsuspecting women. Pink and moist, like a melted hot water bottle, Hoffman symbolises the foetid, perverse sexuality that permeates Happiness. Yet for all the cleverly interweaving anecdotes, this is no American Beauty. Just when you think there's a serious point to all this, Solondz homes in for a close up of ejaculated semen or a father and son chat about the techniques of masturbation.
Somehow, Solondz's vision seems as tight as a teenager's. This is not about sexuality, but the hot-house adolescent preoccupation with one's own parts and potions. Happiness feels like a film made by a teenager, viewing the adult world with undeveloped eyes. One can imagine a young Freud enjoying it, not so most of us.
Happiness is most successful in highlighting the emotional isolation of the womenfolk. But the blokes are mainly selfish, sexual deviants with no emotional core. In the end, as the camera lingers again on dripping semen, you get the depressing sense that - to Solondz - we are inescapably imprisoned by sex and self. Grown up cinema? Yes and no.