HAPPINESS, Todd Solondz 1998


When you become a movie addict it’s easy to forget plots of many movies, either because they’re shit but sometimes they vanish just because even when the film is cool.

This happened with Happiness, I almost remembered nothing and was almost as shocking as for the first time I watched it few years ago.

You really have to be in the mood for this kind of drama assembling many separate plots in just two hours, but luckily I was up to that and it didn’t bore me at all although some story didn’t catch me much.

Happiness deals more with just the opposite, taking different stories from the members of a very same family, basically the three sisters completely different from one to each other.

Joy is the youngest of the three sisters, she just does not fit, she pretends to be songwriter, has shitty jobs and it’s difficult to picture a future shared with somebody else, because she’s too special. She’s a romantic with a  concept of  love  totally unrealistic. On the very first scene after having a wonderful evening with her friend Andy she rejects him as a possible lover not predicting his furious and vengeful  reaction to the max, which leaves her completely shocked and feeling as total crap. She will later know that Andy suicides, causing her a state of depression she tries to overcome by changing her job as an English teacher for foreign people.

Helen (Lara Flynn Boyle) is a snob writer, she exploits  rape and abuse subjects  as if she had lived both situations although she was grown up in a normal familiar environment. She feels empty for she’s not authentic in her writings, she’s a fake, and she knows because of her status she can fuck whoever she wants, but this does not satisfy her any longer. When she receives one of this nasty and dirt phone calls, she gets so excited and hooked up that starts harassing the mysterious speaker up to a point she wants to meet him. Eventually he’ll be encouraged enough to knock at her door but nothing will happen for he’s not her type. The speaker is in fact his neighbor Allen (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), a loser, fat boring wanker totally unnoticeable for anyone but for another fatty neighbor, who secretly has a crash on him.

Trish Jordan is the eldest sister, she’s a housewife, mother of three, who is apparently sharing a perfect life with her husband Bill Maplewood (Dylan Baker), a psychiatrist with a remarkable dark side, who dreams with mass murdering and buys teenager magazines for wanking in his car. Bill is a pederast and eventually will put  his quiet life at risk when sexually abusing  one of his son’s best friends by sedating everybody at home. On the other hand, Bill has to deal with his son’s sexual awakening who is really concerned about coming.

Dad, I need to come

Dad, I need to come

If I have to choose one of the stories, no doubt the best is Maplewood’s, the perfect guy with the perfect family  and a perfect life who is not happy enough and decides to go further and trespass the limits of good, eventually getting in trouble. What is most shocking is that you realize in real life there’re many people like him. Sometimes the more you have, the more you need and we’re constantly witnessing real life stories of common life people, even in a easy living position who are caught involved in sexual scandals which have to do with depravation, abusing or so called sexual philiae.

The way Solondz deals with these extreme situations is handled in a very soft way, not creating morbid and possibly offensive scenes, but on dialogues and attitudes, very subtle but self explanatory  at the same time.  You are witnessing tough stories but can make fun of them.

Regarding interpretation, the most remarkable one in a negative way is Lara Flynn Boyle’s. In my opinion she’s just a pretty face and nothing else, her story is only interesting thanks to Allen, linked to Kristina’s.

The kids roles are very cool, you end sympathizing with Timmy Maplewood in his quest for coming, and obnoxious Johnny Grasso helps to get you tense for you know what’s going to happen.

Don’t know whether this movie deserves to be so awarded but there’s no doubt is original and not so full of drama as Magnolia, which is hardest to endure. Pessimism in Happiness is constantly present, but not so overwhelming.

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