Monday, August 27, 2007

Movie Log: Happy Endings

The Wife and I are on a roll: we got two movies at the beginning of last week, and actually watched them both together! (Of such little triumphs is a life made.)

Wednesday night was Happy Endings time; it's an overly-narrated dramedy that has some good performances but takes itself a bit too seriously. It's aiming, I think, to be the gay version of Crash, with somewhat more humor.

Lisa Kudrow and Steve Coogan play step-siblings, and each anchor one of the three loosely related plotlines of the movie; it starts with a brief, surprising scene in the present day, and then flashes back for a couple of quick scenes in the mid-80s (when they were in their teens), but then returns to the modern day for the rest of the movie. Kudrow's character learns that a blackmailer has information on the son she gave up for adoption back then, and so she and her masseur boyfriend try to scam the blackmailer with a film project about the masseur giving rich women "happy ending" massages.

Meanwhile, Coogan's character, now gay and in a long-term relationship, suspects that a lesbian couple did use his partner's sperm to conceive their young child -- they claim that they tried it, but that it didn't work, so they went on to use anonymous sperm from a sperm bank. As one might expect, poking into such things makes more secrets spill out before long.

And the third plot centers on Maggie Gyllenhaal, a vixen who seduces a young gay virgin after getting a gig as fill-in singer with his band, and then trades her way up to the young man's father (Tom Arnold), a rich and successful businessman. Her story doesn't work out quite the way she'd like, either.

The three stories intersect a little, but not all that much; the movie mostly shuffles among them. This movie also seems to be scared to death of voice-overs; there are extensive explanatory captions on screen throughout the movie that could easily, and more gracefully, have been voice-overs.

Happy Endings isn't a great movie, and it isn't consistently a comedy (as it looks to be), but it has moments of drama and humor, and a large cast of good actors who all have solid material to work with. It's a bit diffuse, and requires more reading than you'd expect of a movie in English set in LA, but it tells its stories well and its worth a rental for people who like character-driven stories.

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