Sommerleigh Pollonais, Senior Writer
Plot: Tom and Janet have been happily married for years. But a visit from a mysterious stranger leads to a dead body, a lot of questions, and a tense couples’ trip with friends who may not actually be friends at all.
I’ve seen a few dark romantic comedies in my day, but Happily stands apart for telling a story where you the viewer won’t be sure what’s happening all the way through. Even after the credits have rolled, you may still find yourself asking, “What exactly was the point of all that?” Well, I’m no expert, just an avid movie viewer, but what I think writer/director BenDavid Grabinski is trying to say is if you truly love someone you have to love them, flaws and all, because the best relationships are the ones that are tested and yet you still manage to hold on to each other in the end. Either that, or he really REALLY hates happy couples!
Joel McHale (Community) and Kerry Bishé (Penny Dreadful: City of Angels) play Tom and Janet respectively. They’ve been married for 14 years yet still have a very active sex life, and are always thoughtful and forgiving to each other. Their relationship is so good in fact their friends hate them for it and wish to “vote them off the island” by kicking them out of group activities. Things get surreal when a man named Goodman (played by everyman actor Stephen Root) comes to their home and tells them they are defective. He wants to inject them with a serum that will “fix” them so they can be like everyone else. It only gets stranger from there, but to tell you what happens next is to spoil what is an intriguing and darkly funny look at what it means to be in a truly solid relationship.
Where Happily excels is in its pacing and execution of the story. Every time I thought I had an idea of what was happening here (Aliens? Inception? A lost episode of Black Mirror?) something would happen to make me change my mind. There’s great chemistry between our two leads, adding to the believability of this perfect couple, and the visuals, with its somewhat dream-like qualities, kept my eyes glued to the screen. The story is also character-driven and the performances that stood out to me were the ones by Bishé, Natalie Morales (Girls) and Jon Daly (Masterminds). I loved Joel McHale in Community, but his performance here is much more subdued and unfortunately didn’t do much for me, nor did the lack of any real development of the group of friends beyond the surface and some dark secrets that are revealed.
The story also suffers from a lack of explanation as we are never given any real answers as to what the hell was behind Goodman and his motivations. On one hand, I understand the focus here is on the life cycle of a relationship (each couple has their own thing going on) but at the same time with a bit more information the script would’ve felt less like a first draft of an intriguing premise and more like a fully fleshed-out tale. But for me the biggest misdeed committed here is the conclusion of this story. With the exception of our main couple, there’s no real sense of anyone growing, changing or learning from this experience. Hell, even Tom and Janet seem like they would be okay, which would work in an ordinary romantic movie, but in one this dark and strange, not so much.
So would I recommend it? Well, it depends on the type of movie viewer you are. If you enjoy smaller, character-driven films, where a writer/director takes a well-established genre and tries to do something different with it, you just might like Happily. But if you prefer you romcoms straight-up and without mind-bending twists that leave you flapping in the wind, you just might want to pass this one by.
Sommer’s Score: 5 out of 10
For another trippy relationship drama you can check out Featured Writer Alice’s review of I’m Thinking of Ending Things here. Or for more romcom with a bit of mystery you can check out my review of The Lovebirds here.
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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