The movie starts off with Albert Markovski (Jason Schwartzman) striding through a wooded area, and in a voiceover, swearing and cussing; finally arriving at the questions: Is it worth it? Should I quit? No, I shouldn’t
and wrestling with the seeming finality and futility of everything. He finally arrives at his destination: a big rock roped off with yellow caution tape. Albert is part of a small but feisty organization called open space which works to prevent suburban sprawl. His current project is to save a forest/marshlands (the one he was striding through) from being developed into another strip mall. His efforts have managed to save only the rock. Albert has a poem for the rock, which he reads to his audience and only when the camera pans away from him do we see that his audience consists of a few local reporters and members of his organization.Albert is upset about this but realises that he has appointment. He jumps onto his bike and cycles away from the forest. He arrives at an anonymous building, looks at an address he’d written down earlier and proceeds to the ninth floor. He runs through the mazelike corridors and finds it almost impossible to find the office that is his destination. Finally, after a couple minutes of Albert wandering around in circles (and at one moment, seemingly almost catching up with himself as he rounds a corner) he arrives at 909. He enters, says he has an appointment and apologises for being late.
Not long after, Albert is sitting in an office, across the desk from Vivian Jaffe (Lily Tomlin). Albert looks at Vivian. Vivian looks back at Albert. The camera cuts back and forth, until Albert gets up abruptly. Vivian then asks Albert why he’s there. Albert tries to explain, but Vivian cuts in with this: Have you ever transcended through time and space? Albert attempts to answer several times, fails, and finally admits, I have no idea what you are talking about. Albert than finally explains the three events that brought him to Vivian. 1 He was at a photo store (the type where you can buy celebrity glossies) looking for photos of the young Bob Dylan, when he bumped into an African man who was looking for photos of Shaq. 2 he bumps into the same African man who happens to be the doorman at an apartment building he happened to be visiting. 3 He was planting trees in a parking lot mall when he was almost run over by an SUV with the same African man in the front passenger seat. His question to Vivian then was, Explain these three coincidences to me. Vivian tells him offhandedly that she doesn’t think his coincidences could possibly be that important, but asks him why he came to her. He explains that he was in a restaurant and didn’t have a jacket. The restaurant provided him with a jacket and Vivian’s business card (stating that Vivian is an Existential Detective) was in the pocket. And that was a coincidence because Albert never goes anywhere without his jacket
So Vivian takes his case pro bono, tells him that her taking on his case means her and her colleague having unfettered access to his life. She then introduces him to her colleague, Bernard (Dustin Hoffman), who is also her husband. Bernard introduces Albert to his blanket theory: every element and molecule of the universe is contained in the finality of the blanket. Consequently, everything in the world is connected and everything is infinite. Bernard then invites Albert to get into what looks like a bodybag, but it’s really a sensory-depravation bag. Albert gets in and starts seeing images of people he has problems with and him chopping their heads off with a machete. Bernard interrupts this violent reverie, telling Albert that he must practice the visualisation of his problems and his conflicts. Albert nods and leaves.
The next couple of scenes are of Vivian stalking Albert: Albert at breakfast, Albert cycling to work, Albert brushing his teeth. Finally, we come to Vivian tailing Albert to work, in spite of his pleas for her to not do so because her presence might jeopardise his credibility with his non-profit. Indeed, the moment he steps into his office, his small team bombard him with questions the most important being that Brad (Jude Law) has moved the Open Spaces meeting to Brad’s offices at Huckabees. Albert loses it when he hears this, but one of the members of the group intervenes, saying that Brad is going in the right direction with the group. Albert implores her to keep him at the helm, saying that he created the charter and is the one who started the effort in the first place. The woman is unmoved and leaves for Huckabees. Vivian is madly scribbling in her notebook when Albert comes out and tells her to leave (his attempts at subtlety fail as his 3 colleagues look on curiously from inside the office). Bernard arrives at the moment of Albert’s most vigorous pleas, telling Vivian that Mr. Corn (another patient) is having a breakdown. Vivian talks with Mr. Corn on Bernard’s cell phone and hands the phone back to Bernard. Vivian then leaps (through the rear window) into the departing car of Albert’s colleague who is heading to Huckabees.
Vivian manages to get herself into Huckabees where she overhears Brad (Jude Law) telling an apparently very funny story about Shania Twain, and sees Dawn Campbell (Naomi Watts) modelling Huckabees apparel for an ad shoot. An observant Huckabees employee notices Vivian hanging around (complete with headphones and tape recorder) and escorts her to the open spaces meeting, which is on a different floor.
At the meeting, in spite of Albert’s efforts, Brad charms everyone at the organisation with his earnest declarations of wanting to work towards a green solution for the new Huckabees development on the marshland (that Albert was purposefully striding through at the beginning of the movie). He even has t-shirts for everyone, and the promise that Shania Twain will make an appearance at the Open Spaces benefit. A vote is called and all of a sudden, Albert finds himself ousted by Brad as the organizer of the Open Spaces benefit.
Meanwhile, Bernard is at Tommy Corn’s (Mark Wahlberg) house (the man on the phone in the middle of a crisis). Tommy’s wife is loading her life’s possessions onto a truck and is clearly leaving him. Tommy’s wife is apparently fed up with Tommy’s philosophical wranglings (and also deadpan earnest promotion of green causes) under the guidance of Bernard and Vivian. Tommy though has apparently taken Bernard’s lessons and gone even further, quoting from a book he received anonymously in the mail. Bernard pales suddenly when he sees that Tommy’s book is written by Caterine Vauban. Bernard starts telling Tommy not to read the book. But Tommy is insistent. He says that Bernard is all about the theory that everything is connected in an infinite canvas; but Vauban concludes that nothing is connected and nothing matters. In the meantime, Tommy’s wife has left.
Albert, meanwhile, is despondent about losing his position and returns to the Jaffe’s offices. He is shocked though to find Brad there, reciting a poem to Bernard. He is even more shocked to hear that Brad has hired Vivian and Bernard to work on him! Albert tries very hard to visualise and move on, but only ends up cutting up Brad with a machete in his imagination. Vivan decides that given the fragile state Albert is in, it would be the perfect moment to introduce him to his other, who is none other than Tommy Corn. Tommy is in another room talking to a wise woman about the destruction wielded on the earth by oil-hungry corporations. The two are introduced and agree to be each other’s other.
The first thing Tommy suggests for Albert to do is to wrestle back control of Open Spaces. As they head towards Huckabees, they don’t notice that they are being trailed by Caterine Vauban?. Meanwhile back with the Jaffe’s (who are now outside Brad’s house), Brad and live-in girlfriend Dawn (the "face and voice" of I heart Huckabees) are getting a dose of Vivian and Bernard’s methods of investigation. There is an awkward moment when it is revealed exactly how infrequently Brad and Dawn have sex (and how short each episode is); even more awkward are Dawn’s repeated Freudian slips of, ?It’s quantity, not quality that counts!?. Brad avoids any further embarrassing questions from the Jaffe’s by slipping off to a previously scheduled meeting. Dawn however, is vulnerably open to the Jaffe’s method. As she answers each question willingly and guilelessly, the Jaffe’s exchange a look of a poacher approaching its helpless prey.
Tommy and Albert are continuing to bond
and the fact that both of them use bicycles as their means of transportation is an extra bonus. Tommy introduces Albert to his fellow firefighters at the firehouse and urges Albert to go look for the African man who features in his three coincidences. The two break into the Jaffe’s offices and steals this mysterious man’s address. Albert and Tommy suddenly find themselves in a front yard of a suburban home, where the African man is playing basketball. The man turns and recognises Albert. Albert asks if they could stay for dinner and he smiles, saying that he’ll go ask his parents. Albert and Tommy then sit down at the table with the Hooten’s, who have adopted Steven from his native Sudan. Albert and Tommy then get into a heated debate with the Hooten’s about urban sprawl, energy conservation (or the lack thereof) and the Hooten’s first world arrogance. Naturally, the two get kicked out.
As they exit the house (with Albert apologising to Steven and Steven apologising to his adopted parents), Vivian and Bernard are there, their equipment evidence that they had heard the whole exchange. Also present (but at a discrete distance) is Caterine Vauban. Tommy and Albert tell Vivian and Bernard that they are ready to go over to the other side with Vauban; leap onto their bikes and peddle off, with Vauban in pursuit. Vivian and Bernard sigh, but return to their other project: Brad and Dawn.
Caterine Vauban now introduces herself to the two men, and helps extract Albert from his misguided Jaffe-heavy beliefs in the infinite. Caterine takes Albert to the building in which Steven is the doorman. (the building that Albert said he visited earlier). It turns out that Albert’s parents live in that building. Caterine confronts Albert’s mother about a diary entry from when Albert was a little boy. Albert wrote about his dog dying, and how his mother didn’t care. Caterine tells his mother that she did wrong by her son. Albert’s mother responds callously, to which Caterine says, Listen Albert
that is your mother! Caterine’s explanation for the coincidences: Albert was orphaned by his parents in much the same way Steven was orphaned by Sudan
The Jaffe’s were again there as witnesses. Albert asks them why they couldn’t come up with any explanation. The Jaffe’s respond that it’s because Albert wasn’t upfront about who lived in that building in the first place.
Caterine introduces Tommy and Albert to an exercise which takes place at a picnic table in front of Albert’s beloved marsh/forest to help them realise that nothing matters and nothing is connected is to have Tommy and Albert smack each other on the face with a giant, pink ball. Albert goes first and hits Tommy repeatedly on Tommy’s command. Soon, Tommy emerges, a little dazed, with the realisation that at some point during the exercise, everything melts away and it’s just him getting whacked on the face. Albert takes his turn getting hit and he too, comes to the same epiphany. Vauban has more to reveal: the epiphany that nothing matters necessarily gets interrupted by the human drama of life. There is no escaping the cycle of nothingness and destruction. As if to illustrate her point, while she is talking to the two of them, she extends a leg towards Albert’s crotch under the table. Albert reacts, but Tommy continues to listen unaware of what’s happening beneath the table surface. Before long, Albert and Caterine rush off into the marshlands to have sex. Tommy is clearly hurt by this but is reminded by Caterine that this is just one of those episodes of human drama that slices into the nothingness.
Meanwhile, Dawn has become the very antithesis of the Huckabees girl as a result of her interactions with the Jaffe’s. For the past 5 days apparently, she’s turned up to work in dungarees and an amish bonnet. She is convinced that that is her look. Brad is very upset, telling her that she is not pretty that way and she better put her normal clothes back on. Dawn sticks to her guns and goes to work, only to find that the company has found another face and voice for I © Huckabees. She is utterly destroyed and disrupts Brad during an important meeting with the board of directors (which has just promoted him to a senior manager.) Brad manages to talk down Dawn with promises of wealth and stature, who agrees to go home and change.
Vivian and Bernard choose this moment to approach Brad. They present him with a family picture: Brad’s parents, Brad, and a very obese man. The Jaffe’s ask Brad why he is ashamed of his brother (the obese man). Brad pretends to cry, and giggles happily when the Jaffe’s react. He brushes his brother off, saying that he is basically a loser who has nothing to talk about but geckos and has but 2 stories to tell. At this point, Vivian pulls out a tape recorder, which plays all the instances in the past week that Brad has told the Shania Twain story (that Vivian overhead him telling the first time she set foot in Huckabees). Brad tells the story numerous times. Bernard asks him why he tells the story. Brad has no answer. Bernard asks if it is because the story helps shield the world from who Brad really is. Brad asks, Who can I be but myself? The Jaffe’s turn to each other and repeat that question over and over until Brad hears it on constant loop in his head as he heads to the board meeting. He scoots into the bathroom and breaks out into a cold sweat. He throws cold water onto his face and goes to the meeting.
We cut to Albert and Caterine, who are in Brad’s backyard. Albert is getting ready to torch some of Brad’s most prized possessions: his shiny jetskis.
Meanwhile, in Tommy’s firehouse, Tommy is watching television with a completely comatose look on his face. Suddenly, the alarm goes off and he jumps into action. The rest of the firefighters jump into the fire engine but Tommy insists on riding his bike. Tommy wins the day when he shoots through rush hour traffic on the highway to get to the fire first. He even radios back to the fire truck and does a little jig. He rushes into the burning house and sees a body in the hallway. He turns the body over and it’s Dawn. They two look at each other for a long, long moment and kiss. Then they are both overwhelmed with smoke and faint.
Back in the Huckabees boardroom, everyone is there, all smiles. Then one of the managers asks him to tell the Shania Twain story. Brad declines. His boss reminds him that it is a great story and everyone is there to hear it. Brad shrinks into himself a little and declines again. The members of the board are now looking at him quizzically. Brad throws up into his hand; and is led out of the room by his boss.
We now flash to Brad’s backyard, where Vivian and Bernard are on stake out. Unbeknownst to them, Caterine and Albert are there too. Brad drives up and collapses onto his front lawn. He looks like a complete mess. Vivian and Bernard come out from the bushes. Brad tells them he’s been fired. He looks at his house and it’s literally gone up in smoke. Albert sneaks a peak and takes a Polaroid of Brad, who is in tears and completely bedraggled. All of a sudden, Albert realises that Brad and himself are the same person. Both have been ousted, both are miserable and both have lost something that matters to them. Brad, meanwhile, musters up the energy to declare that he’s going to the Open Spaces Benefit anyway and takes off in his car. Albert wants to go too but before he leaves, he tells the Jaffe’s and Caterine that the three may have had their differences in the past, but their disparate theories actually work better as one because the theories balance each other!
At the benefit, Brad is kept from going into the ballroom. Tommy and Dawn appear together, apparently having fallen in love. Dawn asks Brad if he could love her with the bonnet. Brad says no. Dawn then says, It’s over Brad. He loves me with the bonnet.
Albert and Brad lay their cards on the table (after a confrontation in the elevator) and realise that they have more in common than they once thought.