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RUNNING TIME 119 Minutes
STUDIO Phase 4 Films
SPECIAL FEATURES 2 Trailers of Another Happy Day
A wedding at her parents’ Annapolis estate hurls high-strung Lynn into the center of touchy family dynamics.
Director Sam Levinson Starring Ellen Barkin, Ezra Miller, Ellen Burstyn, Demi Moore, Kate Bosworth, Thomas Haden Church, George Kennedy
A family gets together for the wedding of a son, told from the mother who did not have custody and the 3 children and their problems that she did have custody of.
One look at the cover of Another Happy Day, and you will know what mood to expect from the movie. The cast that is in this film is another example of a smaller budget film with an amazing ensemble cast. I am surprised this didn’t get more buzz theatrically, and is more than likely the victim of a well done, phenomenally acted Sundance Film festival movie lost in the shuffle. While a lot of it was predictable, the actors are the real benefit for watching this film.
The central lead character of the film is played by Ellen Barkin, as a divorced mother of 4 who has to face her extended family for her eldest son’s wedding. The groom was raised by his father and step mother, played by Thomas Haden Church and Demi Moore in two of the smaller but more important roles. The other three children were all raised by Barkin, they all suffer mental and or social issues (depression, drugs, aspergers, self mutilation and possibly autism) and feature two great performances from Ezra Miller and Kate Bosworth. The story revolves around the extended family, how they seem to alienate and villianize Barkin and her 3 siblings, the children’s father who ignores his own past demons and overlooks the impact the choice of his current wife has on the 3 children not living with him and an older couple having to face the realization that one of them is dying.
The ensemble works very well, and I can see why this won an award for screenwriting at Sundance. I can also see why it didn’t win some of the other awards. I thought that Barkin hammed it up too much in some spots (particularly scenes with Church and Moore) with an annoying shaking insecurity and quivering lip, only to see the next shot be a lot more settled. I’ve always thought Barkin was an astounding actress(Sea of Love,Johnny Handsome), but here she tries maybe a little too hard for things that would be better left in the subtlety she has shown in the past. Demi Moore also was so over the top it was hard to picture her as anything more than an actress trying to upstage the other actors in the scene. The scenes with the both Barkin and Moore seemed to me as way overacted in a film that was supposed to be the family next door.
I have to blame the director for the acting issues, as anytime you have such great talent and not let them play to their strengths, then you are to blame. The direction of Another Happy Day had a lot of things that stuck out in the wrong way. Early into the film, when Barkin and company arrive at her mother’s place in Annapolis, the dialogue felt rushed, as did the entire scene, rapid firing one thing after another to make sure all points were absorbed, but all the while preventing the viewer from truly digesting the important facts to maintain. Other scenes that really did damage were the scenes with Barkin and Moore. Sam Levinson, son of Barry Levinson, does a mediocre job from an outstanding cast and essentially shows why this film has had such little buzz.
Ezra Miller’s character draws a lot of the attention in the film. He plays a drug addicted depressed teenager who cares for the other misfits in his family, and even though his character attempts to hide it, he also cares greatly for his mother. For all the faults with Barkin, Miller maintains his role in the film through a diverse range of emotions and reactions to multiple difficult situations. This is a perfect companion piece with We Need to Talk About Kevin for an Ezra Miller demo reel. Kate Bosworth is stunning as always (reason enough for me to watch this), and plays a wider range than I am used to from her. She often comes very close to overacting, but at the last moment, does something in character but weird that would maintain her presence, whether it be from fiddling with the sleeves on her shirt, hiding her face halfway behind a nearby pillar or a subtle lip bite. A very veteran skill and not distracting or misleading enough to remove the viewer from film.
The aforementioned script builds and establishes a wide range of characters and the horrible shortcomings they have. No character is portrayed in a shallow manor other than the eldest son and his bride to be, as they only serve as a reason for the families to interact and to setup another point of hostility between Moore and Barkin.
The film infrequently mixes in some POV shots from a hand held camera that did not add to the characterizations or the plot. It was their more to give a different perspective and to do some quick introductions to some of the characters. The location works for the film, other than the fact that they try to pass themselves off as a southern family and Annapolis is definitely in the north. The sound is adequate for a movie of this type, except for some rushed dialogue at times make it hard to comprehend.
Another Happy Day doesn’t do anything we haven’t seen before. It does it with a strong cast and other than a few moments, some very strong performances. It is above the curve for heartfelt, family in turmoil and neglected sibling films. I felt it tried to be a tear jerker like Terms of Endearment , but ultimately never pushes the envelope far enough. My rating reflects it is worth a watch if like this type of drama, but if you don’t, it’s not going to change your opinion.
I am also going to remove half a point on my rating due to their being not a single special feature other than trailers. There is the original trailer and a red band trailer.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars