||Weaving together myriad interconnected plot lines with more than a dozen lives, this gifted writer-director [Todd Solondz] has fashioned a bleak, brilliant comedy about loneliness, lovelessness, and alienation -- a film that constantly upends our assumptions about what is heartbreaking, what is hilarious, and what is both. Here's a graveyard of shattered self-esteem, a lonely crowd of walking-and-talking wounded that provokes, by turns, laughter and shocked silence. For 135 minutes this moviemaker sends us wildly mixed signals about what it means to be human; about the proximity of tragedy and comedy; and about life in a society where no one in a roomful of office clerks can remember the name, or the face, of a former co-worker who's just committed suicide and where an apartment-house doorman can wind up chopped into little pieces in an upstairs tenant's freezer. Happiness is risky business indeed. Now 38, New Jersey native Solondz chooses not to satanize a pedophile, but rather to turn him this way and that in the light, looking at all of his facets. Solondz neither idealizes nor mocks a seemingly Cleaveresque household in New Jersey; instead, he examines it with pinpoint accuracy, layer by layer. In his disparate characters, he shows us rage inflamed by sadness, isolation governed by impotence. He shows the excitement in the face of a needy woman when a Russian cab driver takes up a guitar and sings to her "You Light Up My Life," of all things, in an accent as thick as borscht. Anything to find happiness. We don't know whether to laugh or cry, but the emotional jolt is powerful.