**½ out of ****
Director: Mike Leigh
Cast: Sally Hawkins, Eddie Marsan, Alexis Zegerman
Mike Leigh’s new film “Happy-Go-Lucky” is a fine example as to why the star-rating system is flawed. When someone uses the star-rating system, they are rating how much they liked or disliked the movie. A reviewer cannot use words to describe their feelings of a film when it comes to the star-rating system. As I was watching “Happy-Go-Lucky,” I couldn’t help but feel that I was missing something that every other reviewer got from it.
The above star-rating of the film is not rating my approval of the film. If I was to give you guys MY rating for the film, it would have been a star less. No, the rating above is me being nice to the film, telling you guys that you should go see it, because in all of the depressing films this year, such as “W.” and “Twilight,” you should go see a film that was hidden behind all others. It’s cheery, but too cheery for me. I’m not sure what everyone else would get from the movie, but that’s why I’m telling you now – just catch it on DVD sometime.
Poppy (Sally Hawkins) is an elementary school teacher in the heart of London where nothing can possibly get her down. She walks about with her joyish and happy-go-lucky attitude and tries to make everyone happy. She lives with her roommate, (Alexis Zegerman) who are so close to each other that you would think that they were lesbians. Her sister Suzy (Kate O’Flynn) is pregnant and tries to ask Poppy when it is about time to grow up and start acting like a real human being. And her driving instructor Scott (Eddie Marsan) just can’t get over how giddy she is and how miserable he is, and starts taking his feelings out on her.
That is about all you will get from “Happy-Go-Lucky.” There is no trace of storyline throughout the film. We’re just watching Poppy unintentionally annoy people with her happiness. I think I got something out of the film that no one else got from it, and that was that it felt good to frown. Poppy is so happy that it literally annoys the shit out of you, and you realize it from the first five minutes. She walks into a book-store after parking her bike, and once her bike is stolen, she says to herself, “I never got to say goodbye.” I don’t think this was really supposed to be funny, because if this was me, I’d go steal a fucking car to go find the bastard that took my bike.
And this is just the beginning of her happiness. She is so happy that some of her actions seem almost appropriate for a retard. Every Saturday during her driving tests she would wear these shoes that make her driving instructor flip out on her. She just laughs it off and throws a one-liner out, Groucho Marx style. She is almost a three-year old girl at heart.
Maybe that is the problem of the film. Maybe she IS too happy. I don’t have a problem if people like being happy. I occasionally frown upon people who are happy to see that their bike gets stolen though, and I certainly hate it when people act like an idiot just so they can get a bit of enjoyment in themselves. I guess I’m just a miserable bastard, but “Happy-Go-Lucky” is just not working for me.
That doesn’t mean that it isn’t going to work for you. There are plenty of things in this film that work. Director Mike Leigh does a great job as the director of the film, and even though his screenplay is just a little bit on the off-side, he shows a few great camera-angles. I don’t know enough about the director himself, being that this is the first Leigh film that I’ve seen, but knowing from some of the reactions from other film critics about his films, I’m pretty sure that he is a great director and screenwriter. Maybe seeing this first just wasn’t the smartest thing to do if I really wanted to get inside his mind.
Sally Hawkins really does deserve an Oscar nomination. I know how hard it is to play someone that is happy all of the time. While working and doing other stuff that doesn’t involve movies or weightlifting or buying slurpees or even eating some good Chinese food, it is almost hard just to be happy with your life. To wake up for school everyday at 6:15 in the morning and being bombarded with shit to do afterwards, the only thing you can look forward to is the weekends. And Poppy almost lives a life like me. She has to get up early so she can go to school, being bombarded afterwards with conflicts with her children, trampoline-jumping, and dancing. I don’t know how she does it on the weekends though – she can get screamed at and still be happy.
Oh, where was I again? Oh yeah, she deserves to be nominated. Not to win, but just enough to go to the lunch-in and get recognized.
And if there was a god, he would place Eddie Marsan on the Oscar nominee ballots. Like Hawkins, he would never win, but I think this role deserves a lot of recognition. He plays the cynical driving instructor who hates almost everything in the world, including England’s educational system (which seemingly plays a lot like America’s, now that I think about it) and the people on the road. His role is a complete opposite to Hawkins’s, which would be an easier role to play. But I shouldn’t lie to you guys, because his last monologue just couldn’t be acted by anyone. Only a talented actor could say lines like that.
There are a few problems here and there, mainly conflicts that are left open. We are introduced to Poppy’s trampoline-jumping and dancing, but they’re quickly forgotten about. If it didn’t come down to a few of the notes that I took while watching the film, I probably would have forgotten about the scenes too. It isn’t needed for any plot-development at all. Another conflict is her relationship with her sister. They fight in one scene in the second half that doesn’t seem resolved. The film needed a lot of work, and we’re left with this unfinished product.
“Happy-Go-Lucky” really could have been a better film. If it wasn’t for the acting, there would be barely anything here. I didn’t want to say this, but “Happy-Go-Lucky” is an adult version of “Napoleon Dynamite.” And that isn’t a good thing.