HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Saturday, March 10, 2018

THE HAPPYS -- Movie Review by Porfle

I began my viewing of THE HAPPYS (2016) with both the best and worst of expectations. I knew I was going to be treading into chick-flick territory again, which can be daunting, but I also know that sometimes even films in that genre can turn out to be quite passable and, yes, even entertaining.

This one, saints be praised, falls squarely into the "yes, even entertaining" category.  I thought at first that it was going to be some kind of candy-coated farce with its Barbie-like heroine Tracy (Amanda Bauer) extolling the virtues of being the perfect wife and homemaker for her future husband Mark (Jack DePew) and positively beaming rainbow waves of happiness as her dollhouse world began to come together in pristine perfection.

But then this veneer of perfectness is tarnished, cracked, and finally shattered when she finds out Mark's gay (she walks in on him and another guy in their bed) and is only using her for a beard to preserve his budding acting career. 

And he's not even the good kind of gay like his out-of-closet friends, but the bad kind who denies his true self while having joyless, forced sex with Tracy, who is also denying her true self in ways that she has only begun to discover.

Their storybook neighborhood, Los Feliz (literal Spanish translation: "The Happys"), has its own dramas here and there, with the now aimless Tracy being drawn to some of her eccentric neighbors.  This includes a very reclusive young man named Sebastian (Rhys Ward), who never leaves the house and doesn't want to be touched (physically or emotionally). 

Naturally, they'll meet, touch, and enrich each other as we just knew they would, but even this comes with its dramatic conflicts.  Added to this is Tracy's growing friendship with a lunch-wagon guy (Arturo del Puerto) who sparks her romantic and culinary curiosity, and her continuing clashes with the equally-confused Mark which will lead to a catastrophic falling-out.

The initial feeling that THE HAPPYS is going to be a more fanciful romp carries over into the dramatic developments, making them much lighter and way less maudlin and cloyingly self-conscious than they might've been in other hands. 

Even when things are at their darkest, such as when Tracy and Mark's last painful attempt at sex turns into mutual accusations and contempt, writer-directors  Tom Gould and John Serpe (this is the feature debut for both) tread lightly and surefootedly.  In other words, the characters suffer just enough to get the point across without wallowing in bathos.  And that's a good thing.

The cast is excellent, including Janeane Garofalo as ex-child actress Luann, a sort of grounded free spirit who rents out most of the houses in the neighborhood while earnestly interacting with her tenants. 

One scene in which she's softly intoning some sage advice to Tracy ("Do no harm...listen to your spirit animal...") gave me a mysterious sort of flashback until I realized she was sounding just like the wise, big-sisterly character she voiced in the Disney dub of KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE. 

Other familiar faces in welcome bit parts include Cathy Ladman as the director of a film Mark's acting in and Melissa McBride (Carol from "The Walking Dead") as his bossy manager who contributes to his deathly fear of being "outed."

Just heavy enough to feel like it matters but light enough to not get bogged down in itself, THE HAPPYS is a straight-forward "finding yourself" tale that lets you like it instead of trying to force itself on you.  And best of all, it's even--yes--entertaining. 

Tech Specs
Runtime: 87min
Format: 1:78 HD
Sound: Dolby Sr.
Country: USA
Language: English
Genre: Comedy, Romance, Drama



No comments: