Happy Endings review by Geoff Roberts

Happy Endings.

Geoff Roberts

Happy Endings is an intellectual movie that has been mistakenly marketed as a comedy. While it has comedic elements the film is clearly and without question a drama. It succeeds as such and does not have a lot in it to laugh about or to be taken as funny. The only problem is audiences may not warm up to a film that is truly a drama so it has been marketed as a comedy. Whether or not this marketing ploy draws audiences in is one thing but it certainly will not make them laugh at a story that is more sad and downright tragic than anything else. The film is meant for thinkers and their time has come. Audiences have to figure out every subtle plot device. Audience members must fully grasp that the title doesn’t refer to any of the characters. Viewers are not about to see nor find a happy ending at all. The characters are anything but happy and it really is not in the least bit comical but outright tragic and beyond the realm of sadness. All of these characters are in pain and are linked by one single thread together.

The trick is trying to figure out what that link is before reaching the end. The fun is also in trying to figure out why events that happened 20 years ago lead to an ending you will not see coming. Furthermore you will feel more than a little cheated when you find out Jude's motives and desires are better left untold or explored in this movie. Jude is the only character that has motives that are only brought to the surface. Why is she so cunning and a con? One would think money drove her but it is not that simple. Surface and initial impressions mean nothing. Each one of these characters has something deeper going on in their minds and thoughts. They yearn for something but have no idea what that is or if they would be happy at all if they found it.

The characters lie, cheat, steal, and con their way throughout the film. They give in to every whim or impulsive thought they have. For some strange reason it is all appealing. We as an audience bond with them. We are all pretty much condemned with some of us in our own private hell. We are as a society dysfunctional but do not want to admit it. Directed by Don Roos who brought audiences Bounce and The Opposite of Sex this is a cleverly crafted movie that succeeds on all levels and plays a cat and mouse game with your mind as you sit through it and the yarn unravels. It is clear the cat has you right where she wants and like Jude she will not let you go until playing with your soul for a moment. She is like a mirror into which all can see their ownselves. Like Jude that mirror and their collective souls are cracked.

Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Jude. She is a nightclub singer that is seductive and mysterious. Audiences will never figure out her true motives. She acts on impulses and plays everyone for a fool. Promiscuity is her game and she plays it like nobody else but does not appear to have motives. Audiences can see in the end what they think motivates her is not what drives her. In fact her character is the one the director and script devotes most time to. In the end audiences will be let down not knowing what really happened to her or motivated her and how she connects into a 20 year story arch. She seduces a father and his gay son as though it was the easiest thing in the world to her. Her prey are mouse like and could be roped in ripped apart and eaten after it was too late to flee.

Bobby Cannavale plays Mamie’s Mexican lover who happens to be a massage therapist. Mamie is a sheltered individual who lives enclosed in her own torture and memories. She is doing a number on herself and dying on the inside if not the outside as well. She is easy to manipulate especially if a character mentions her long lost son she put up for adoption when she was 17 pregnant and unable to cope. When Nicky learns that Mamie’s finding her son isn’t a good choice for a film he wants to make he gets the couple to consent on making a mock documentary. Only after Mamie gets suckered in and conned by him accepting his terms will she get the information she seeks about her son. It is not even clear if this charecter knows her son or is just using her as a pawn.

Tom Arnold who plays Frank is a wealthy playboy and completely oblivious to his son’s homosexuality. He can not grasp the fact Jude is playing him like a fiddle. The actor is at his best in this film as a truly dimwit character. This is not a role that Tom Arnold ordinarily gets cast in and that is a shame. He truly shines in this picture and Roos wrote the part for him after spending time together. Arnold quipped recently that he has had his share of problems with women and the part was far from a stretch for him.

Lisa Kudrow is great as one half of a lesbian couple that has a secret they are hiding from a friend about a two-year-old toddler. Steve Coogan plays Charley a gay man living with Gil. Although Charley cannot prove a thing he has suspicions that Kudrow and Diane (Sarah Clarke) are hiding a lot more than they want to talk about when it comes to paternity and their relationship with Gil himself.

Jesse Bradford is incredibly gifted and his performance as Nicky the filmaker who cannot make the perfect documentary to enter AFI is spot on flawless. Nicky cannot care or give a damn about anyone but himself and is always stepping over the other characters to go after what he wants. When he finds out how badly he stinks as a filmmaker he resorts to extortion to create a documentary. He comes up with a fake premise and makes Mamie and her boyfriend Javier act out all the scenes and reshoots them over and over. Unfortunately for everyone involved it turns out Nicky's false documentary may hit closer to home and contain an accurate tidbit that could bring them all down.

Jason Ritter who plays Otis is Tom Arnold's gay son in the movie. A naive innocent virgin he is conflicted about his own sexuality. He never knows from one moment to the next if he really gay or if he is straight. Jude is not making anything easier here for him or anyone else. She successfully seduces him amd uses him to move into the family's pool house and go after bigger more naive prey than him.

Ritter best known for Joan of Arcadia is a star on the rise and has learned well from his father the late John Ritter. He may in fact wind up surpassing his father and become famous for his spot on portrayals. David Suttcliffe who plays Gil is a delight to watch. The Canadian actor is fast climbing the Hollywood ladder with parts on Gilmore Girls, Friends, Will and Grace, CSI and The Division.

Suttcliffe is currently filming the Heather Graham vehicle Cake. If this performance says something for him which it does Suttcliffe might be hanging around for a while. Viewers need to have a open mind going into this movie with no expectations. It is a movie for intellectuals and those who like to figure puzzles out. It is not a hand in your face popcorn movie with chuckle after chuckle. While it has comedic elements in it once again it ought to be viewed as a drama about tragic figures who hold in some instances dark secrets and horrible pasts.

There is a huge drawback about this movie that nearly ruins it. Roos uses an annoying as hell plot device to move the story forward. Every few minutes he flashes up a sidebar telling us how every detail relates to the next scene or the ending of the movie. It is almost like he doesn't respect his audience's intellect and ability to figure things out for themselves. The movie would have been an even greater product if he let audiences sit back and figure it out for themselves. After all the film is designed for them to be totally and completely shocked by the end results.

Happy Endings opens in New York, Los Angeles and Selected cities July 15th and nationwide in the United States July 29th. It is well worth trying out for the performances of the lead and supporting ensemble. If you heard negative things about this movie it is because half of audiences will not be able to figure this one out. Alot of movie goers are not into having to wrap their minds around the material. This film is meant for people who like to think and out guess the director when they watch a movie and figure puzzles out. It is in fact much better than you heard it would be just approach it without expectations and become suckered in. This is an experience and wild ride worth taking. Nobody will be able to guess perhaps even with sidebars where it ends up. * It has just been announced that Happy Endings Will Be Release In Toronto and Vancouver on August 5th with other cities to be announced. the film goes wide across the U.S. July 29th and can be seen July 15th in New York and Los Angeles.

8 out of 10 Jackasses

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