This was about as good as I’d heard. If you’re gonna film a story about broke sadsacks who slide into crime out of desperation, get caught, turn on each other and end up worse off than ever, it helps to cast charismatic comedians in the lead roles so it’s a breeze to watch and the awfulness doesn’t hit you until the end. People are saying Richard E. Grant should win the oscar for this, but I disagree – he should win the oscar for playing Jessa’s coked-out rehab buddy on Girls season 3. The first Melissa McCarthy movie I’ve seen since Go twenty years ago, though I’ve liked her on Gilmore Girls. I had a chuckle when Melissa McCarthy’s lawyer turned out to be an actual demon (Shawn from The Good Place). Heller’s follow-up to Diary of a Teenage Girl, cowritten by The Land of Steady Habits director Nicole Holofcener.
“A poignant tale of the clash between the dreams of a youthful modernity and the strictures of ancient custom,” says Criterion. I guess Albanian blood feuds are interesting and worth making a movie about, but I mostly found this a dimly-lit slog. Poor young Nik is confined to the house – potentially for years – because his uncle killed the neighbor. At the end Nik cuts a deal with the neighbors, is allowed to leave and never return. Criterion again: “but [Marston] never lets us forget that many others in the world are caught in the exact same struggles.”
Marston’s second feature after Maria Full of Grace. His third premiered at Sundance the day after I watched this, about a man “moving to a new state with his wife for her graduate program.” I can’t relate. This won prizes in Berlin alongside The Turin Horse, A Separation, Sleeping Sickness. Cinematographer Rob “Tom” Hardy got attention this year for shooting Ex Machina and Testament of Youth. See also: Life During Wartime, the other forgiveness movie I watched this week.
“Are you seeing anyone?”
“No, I’m more focused on China. Everything else is history. It’s just a question of time.”
I don’t remember Happiness very well, but saw it twice and gave it an 8 on IMDB so I suppose I liked it. Things I recall: pervy Philip Seymour Hoffman and pervy child-rapist Dylan Baker and Dylan’s unhappy sister-in-law ironically named Joy. Things internet plot summaries are helping me with: Dylan’s wife is named Trish (Cynthia Stevenson), acts superior to Joy. Their writer sister Helen (Lara Flynn Boyle) meets Hoffman then backs out, after which Hoffman meets Kristina, who confesses to murdering their doorman. Ben Gazzara and Louise Lasser are Joy’s also-unhappy separated parents. Joy’s ex-boyfriend Jon Lovitz kills himself.
Okay, a decade later… Shirley Henderson as Joy… Paul Reubens as suicidal Jon Lovitz… Michael Kenneth “Omar” Williams as Philip Seymour Hoffman… Ciaran Hinds as the pedophile… Allison Janney as his wife… Ally Sheedy as the writer sister… now I should be caught up and ready to watch.
Shot by Morristown NJ’s own Ed Lachman, following his great work on The Limey, Far From Heaven, A Prairie Home Companion and I’m Not There, the cinematography alone almost makes the movie worth watching. The actors are excellent too… the plot, not so much. More Solondzist miserablism. He must attract Emil Jannings acolytes who think it’ll be a great acting exercise to humiliate themselves onscreen.
Joy is now married to Omar Seymour Hoffman, which I wasn’t expecting, and is still tormented by her ex. I assumed since his character (now Paul Reubens) was in the movie that it wasn’t a straight sequel, but no, turns out he’s a ghost, and is annoyed with Joy for driving him to suicide (“I miss my room, my laserdisc collection”), suggesting that she join him.
Joy with Reubens, moments before she threatens him with one of those awards:
Joy joins her mom in Florida, where she catches up with the writer sister, now a huge horrible celebrity (Sheedy, below). Dylan/Ciaran is just out of prison but can’t visit his family, because his wife has told the kids for the last decade that their father is dead. After sleeping with a cynical Charlotte Rampling (I watched this the day after she was all over the news for making an unwise remark about racism and the oscars), he does track down his oldest son Billy in college, having an awkward reunion which is admittedly still less awkward than most of Happiness.
Ciaran’s wife/Joy’s sister Trish, now Allison Janney, is beginning to date Michael Lerner and things are moving quickly and going well, until her youngest son Timmy misinterprets something he’s been told about not letting adults touch him, and breaks up the relationship. I think the final scene was him apologizing to Lerner’s son Mark. Overall the movie is singlemindedly concerned with forgiveness.
Billy’s wall posters brought to you by Merge Records. I spotted Spoon, Neutral Milk Hotel, Imperial Teen, The Broken West, Oakley Hall, Daniel Johnston, and I’m Not There – another movie casting multiple actors in the same role.