Tuesday, 12 November 2013


Happiness – An excruciating pitch black comedy of all that threatens, undermines and betrays the sentiment of its title: happiness. The film follows a family of three sisters and charts their varying lives and relationships, introducing an extended cast of weird, debauched and tragic characters that weave in and out of parallel vignettes. The opening sequence is perhaps one of the most hilarious and perfectly timed and acted scenes of a couple’s break up that I have ever seen – culminating in the quivering assertion that ‘I’m champagne and your SHIT….and you’ll always be shit!’ At the film’s troubling centre is a father who, despite maintaining the edifice of a suburban, happy family, is struggling with the darkness of his hidden existence as a paedophile. We watch, with griping unease, as he lures his son’s friends, shares intimate conversations with his son about ejaculation and eventually arrives at a trembling confession. It is this dark thread that draws the rest of the film together, with genuinely powerful performances from both Dylan Baker (as the father) and Justin Elvin (as the son). Elsewhere Philip Seymour Hoffman channels the same sweaty, frustrated desperation that he brings to Boogie Nights, but with the lonely and repulsive factor escalated to hilarious heights (or rather to its darkest, most comical lows). Some strands work less well, one of the sisters (the one we see breaking up in the first scene) gets embroiled and exploited in a ridiculous relationship with a Russian immigrant, which feels comparatively implausible and slightly disappointing – considering the narrative possibilities for her character at the film’s start. Minor flaws aside, this is an impressively dark and uncomfortable comedy that still manages to forge many moments of comic brilliance. 8/10

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