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ENTERTAINMENT REVIEWS
HAPPY-GO-LUCKY Telluride Movie Review
9/2/2008
Posted by
Hunter
     

 
 
Reviewed by Hunter M. Daniels

 

Mike Leigh is an odd fellow. His long career in cinema has created some great films and some very frustrating work. His unique style of filmmaking, which involves heavy improvisation based upon character work done with his actors for around 6 months before a “script” is written has created some very notable films including Topsy-Turvy and Secret and Lies. His new film, Happy-Go-Lucky is decidedly more lighthearted than his previous work, and yet somehow it is also infinitely more infuriating.

 

Happy-Go-Lucky is the story of Poppy, a woman who is quite possibly the most unendingly cheery woman in the entire world. She always smiles, always laughs, and more often than not, speaks in rhymes. Poppy lives with her roommate of 10 years and hangs out with her bitchy younger sister. Her older sister has settled down and is pressuring Poppy to do the same. Meanwhile, Poppy struggles to help a violent child in her elementary school class, learn to dance flamenco and deal with her racist, ultraconservative driving instructor. Everywhere around her Poppy sees unhappy people, but she somehow manages to always look on the bright side.

 

Sally Hawkins does very solid work creating the character of Poppy. Unfortunately, the character is incredibly annoying. For the first 20-minutes of the film I wasn’t sure of Hawkins was playing a woman with aspergers. Her constant shrill laughter at everything is just grating. I wasn’t sure if the film was supposed to be a mean-spirited comedy about laughing at this vapid woman.

 

Luckily, after the first reel, Poppy begins to develop into a more realistic character. She demonstrates some depth and shows some surprising intelligence and moral clarity. Unfortunately, she is still a very annoying character.

 

The film is very well made with neon colors that pop off the screen and solid framing on the long-takes. Leigh is an expert at filmmaking and this is seemingly exactly the movie he intended to make. But, the fact that this is his specific vision doesn’t mean it was a good idea. Though all of the dialogue is well written and the performances are often exceptional the characters themselves are just unpleasant.

 

There is some fascinating commentary on the assumptions we make about people and the ways that education enriches peoples lives, but it’s all packaged in such an unpleasant way that even the strong female roles and sharp social commentary gets lost along the way.

 

If you are a die hard Leigh fan, you might enjoy this movie, but I don’t see a casual viewer getting much from the film.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 
     
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