Maime (Lisa Kudrow) has never got over falling pregnant as a teenager with her gay step-brother Charley (Steve Coogan). One day she is approached by would-be filmmaker Nicky (Jesse Bradford) who offers to trade information about the child Maime had adopted out, in return for documenting her story. Maime refuses but suggests an alternate story involving her masseur boyfriend Javier (Bobby Cannavale) who uses sex to put a smile on his clients' faces. Meanwhile, Charley and his partner Gil (David Sutcliffe) become suspicious that the child of their lesbian friends (Laura Dern, Sarah Clarke) may have been conceived from Gil's sperm. Meanwhile, singer Jude (Maggie Gyllenhaal) seduces gay drummer Otis (Jason Ritter), later discarding him for his wealthy father Frank (Tom Arnold).
Review by Louise Keller:
A quirky and often enjoyable film about dysfunctional relationships, Happy Endings brings together separate stories about complicated characters who are all trying to deal with the truth. Writer/director Don Roos (The Opposite of Sex) has brought together a strong ensemble cast, with Maggie Gyllenhaal stealing our hearts. Her Jude is a tantalising character, who finds a pragmatic solution to her problems by first seducing a gay virgin Otis (Jason Ritter), and then discarding him for his wealthy father (Tom Arnold). And Gyllenhaal sings - beautifully. In her role as a band singer, her songs (Billy Joel's Honesty, You Are the Same, I Can't Wait and Just the Way You Are) punctuate the film's emotional pulse.
Circular in structure, while it may be classified as a comedy, the film plays more like a bittersweet drama looking at the deceit-coloured ironies of life and love. The black and white captions marking the different plot points intrude rather than add to the mood, when we are told things like no-one dies, it's a comedy of sorts and that it's ok if we don't like a particular character. All the characters are tragic in their own way, from Lisa Kudrow's life-weary Maime, her secretive masseur boyfriend Javier (Bobby Cannavale), Jesse Bradford as would-be documentary maker Nicky and Ritter's closeted poor little rich boy Otis. Tom Arnold turns from concerned father to revitalised lover with immense conviction, and when his Frank walks down to the pool where Jude is reclining in a brief, multi-coloured bikini, we are as hopeful as he is, as to what may transpire.
The subplot about the two lesbians (Sarah Clarke, Laura Dern) and their homosexual couple friends (Steve Coogan, David Sutcliffe) is rather silly and we never believe how the sperm donor theme plays out. Roos' screenplay becomes excessively complex and I was confused by many unnecessary details. Nonetheless Happy Endings works on many levels offering multi-layered denseness through the various subplots. The soundtrack, with tracks from Astrud Gilberto, Dirty Three, Calexico and Greyboy is one of the film's pleasures and Gyllenhaal's singing performance a highlight.
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HAPPY ENDINGS (US)
CAST: Lisa Kudrow, Steve Coogan, Jesse Bradford, Bobby Cannavale, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Ritter, Tom Arnold, David Sutcliffe, Sarah Clarke, Laura Dern
DIRECTOR: Don Roos
SCRIPT: Don Roos
CINEMATOGRAPHER: J. Clarke Mathis
EDITOR: David Codron
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Richard Sherman
RUNNING TIME: 128 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Rialto
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 23, 2006