Thursday, November 20, 2008

Happy-Go-Lucky (Rhoades)

‘Happy-Go-Lucky’ Is More Happy Than Lucky

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Remember that orgiastic scene in “When Harry Met Sally” where the woman at the next table said, “I’ll have whatever she’s having”? Well, that’s the way I felt about Poppy, the irrepressibly optimistic Londoner in “Happy-Go-Lucky” – the delightful comedy that’s opening today at the Tropic Cinema.

If they could bottle her enthusiasm, I’d take a case or two.
Poppy may as well have been named Pollyanna, for she’s the most optimistic gal to hit the screens since Halley Mills.

This new Mike Leigh film follows a goofy 30-year-old primary school teacher over a two-week period during which time she learns to drive, takes dancing lessons, encounters a homeless man, and has an affair with a social worker.

This is not so much a story as a personality sketch, a portrait of, well, a happy-go-lucky young woman.

You may find Poppy a bit much in the beginning. She’s loud, boisterous, makes awful jokes, and is so bubbly that you want to strangle her. She’s got a laugh that will drive you crazy … until you find yourself laughing with her.

Sally Hawkins delivers a star-turn performance as Poppy. She won the Silver Bear for Best Actress at the Berlin Film Festival. And there’s Oscar buzz.

You’ve probably seen her in previous Mike Leigh films, “Vera Drake” and “All or Nothing.” His other biggies was “Secrets & Lies.” None of those offer the lighthearted comedy that he gives us with “Happy-Go-Lucky.”

The film won Mike Leigh a Bringer of Joy Award at the Norwegian International Film Festival, an honor bestowed by theater owners. All the more satisfying because you don’t generally think of him as making happy films.

And truth be told, under the surface, “Happy-Go-Lucky” is a somewhat depressing film. Leigh likes to get his social digs in, particularly in portraying the middle class as “grasping, shallow, materialistic snobs.” And Poppy’s bubbly spirit is really a fun-house mirror that reminds us of 
our own innate cynicism.

Some moviegoers have compared “Happy-Go-Lucky” to “Amelie,” another film about an upbeat, eccentric young lady who manages to charm the audience. But everybody doesn’t agree. There a blog about “Happy-Go-Lucky” that is titled “Most Annoying Film Character Ever ….”
Love her or hate her, Poppy displays an exuberant personality. The secret here is that you come to discover that she’s more than a mindless buffoon. She’s caring, kind, and has a sadness all her own. Just like you and me.
[from Solares Hill]

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