Happy Endings Reviews
And I still cannot figure out why anyone likes Lisa Kudrow...
"Happy Endings" is a busy movie with so many characters striving to find fulfilment. Every situation doesn't have to conclude with a happy ending. Maggie Gyllenhaal is the best actor here and she seems to relish her role as an opportunistic singer who needs shelter. The central relationship is between Lisa Kudrow and her stepbrother played by Steve Coogan. Kudrow is involved in a weird relationship with Jesse Bradford who's blackmailing her and sexy Bobby Cannavale, a Mexican immigrant. Coogan is involved in a weird relationship with his lover David Sutcliffe (as Gil) and a lesbian couple played by Laura Dern and Sarah Clarke. Gyllenhaal is involved with a weird father/son relationship played by an effective Jason Ritter (as Otis) and Tom Arnold as the empathetic dad. As I said, this is a busy movie with so many themes but the actors and strong writing keep it afloat. It resembles one of Robert Altman's ensemble movies.
I didn't like the script cards outlining the feelings of the characters. It's meant to be clever but is actually a distraction since the actors are bringing home the point. I'd completely eliminate the hackneyed ending too which is meant to buttress the title. How about a more general title like "Life's Endings?"
By the end of this film, I thought that it had reached the Altman Standard in terms of its ability to cleverly combine these characters with some degree of dramatic effectiveness. I write "dramatic" intentionally because even though the title cards and other sources identify this as a comedy, I saw very little humorous about its situations or delivery. Sure, there are a couple moments that were chuckle-worthy, but that's about it.
In my sentence-summary of the film, I listed the most prominent plots, and if you think I'm being somewhat satirical, you're right. A lot of the critics' reviews of Happy Endings lamented the ludicrousness of its storylines, and from a writer's standpoint, I have to agree. However, good actors can sometimes save bad writing. The way in which each of these actors commit to their characters makes the film almost believable. Of particular note is Lisa Kudrow, with whom I, a long-time Friends hater, have never been impressed. But she scraps her ditsy-girl act, and her damaged character exudes a vulnerability that her other work didn't allow her to explore.
Also, throughout the film we get title cards explaining characters' back-stories, and this strikes me as lazy filmmaking. Instead of deftly showing the information we need, the film inundates the audience with minutiae and sly comments that have little bearing on the film's action.
Overall, though there are some significant issues from a writing perspective, the actors save this piece.