The title of Happy
Endings does not refer to everyone living a good life at the end of the
film — though the movie does spend an extraordinarily long time updating us
on the mostly positive futures that await our stars. Instead, the
"happy endings" that the film is ironically referencing is a much more base,
less fairytale oriented practice; it is a slang reference to a massage
brought to an illegal (but satisfying) climax.
I wish I could say that the
movie has as satisfying a climax, but I really can't. Happy Endings
is a rather puzzling movie — in many ways, it is very funny, dramatic
and smart, but it can't help but sabotage itself.
Happy Endings is an
ensemble piece. Characters bounce off of each other in interesting and
unexpected ways. However, as you watch the film, you quickly realize
that these characters are almost all unlikable ciphers. You can't help
but wonder watching these people — why do they do the things they do?
Just about everyone makes what seems like exactly the wrong decision about
every major crossroad of their lives. You just want to pull each and
every one of them aside and slap them upside the head.
This problem is heightened
because of a series of cutesy, supposedly funny title cards which are
supposed to comment on the characters and the action, but are mostly
annoyingly precious. (Example: "Since then he has turned gay.
It is too bad, because the
acting here is terrific. Lisa Kudrow is shockingly subtle as Mamie, a
morose abortion counselor who is blindsided by a young filmmaker (Jesse
Bradford) who wants to film a documentary about reuniting her with her
long-ago adopted son. Mamie has no interest in taking part in the
project, but somehow agrees to help the kid make a film because he says
otherwise she owes him $20,000. (No, I didn't quite figure out how
they made that connection either.) So Mamie serves him up Javier, her
illegal immigrant boyfriend who is a masseuse. The couple decide to
pretend that he has sex with his clients to make him seem interesting.
In the meantime, Mamie's gay
step-brother Charley (Steve Coogan) and his partner Gil (David Sutcliffe)
become obsessed with the idea that the son of their lesbian best friends
(Laura Dern and Sarah Clarke) was actually born of Gil's sperm, though the
two women denied it. Again, this obsession and certainty make no real
sense, nor does the extreme retaliation that the lesbians take on the couple
when they find out that Charley and Gil want proof that the baby is not
One of Charley's employees
is Otis (Jason Ritter of Joan of Arcadia) a closeted gay rich kid who
brings home a free-spirited singer named Jude (Maggie Gyllenhaal) as a beard
to convince his dad (a surprisingly good Tom Arnold) that he is straight.
The father-son relationship takes a beating when Jude starts sleeping with
All these characters
intersect in major and minor ways, bouncing in and out of each others' lives
and then going on their miserable ways. The dialogue by Don Roos
(The Opposite of Sex, Bounce) is mostly clever, particularly when coming
out of the mouths of the talented cast. But the movie makes little
sense. In the end, most audiences will realize that most of these
characters reach their epiphanies by dumb luck, and we really don't care
whether these depressed and depressing people live happily ever after or
PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.Posted:
August 6, 2005.