Happy, Happy (film review)
This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 20th May 2012
As the titles roll, we are serenaded by a barbershop quartet of dapper young men, their rich tones plunging us straight into the icy landscape of a rural village. Not grimly Scandinavian, crime-scene snow, however, but instead one gets the sense of happy, exciting, good-times snow. With such a feel-good beginning, we find ourselves settling back into our seats to be charmed.
No sooner than a new family arrives next door, to be greeted with excitement by the pathologically chirpy and slightly naive Kaja, than her young blond son is enticing his new African playmate to play “slave”. The parents meet for couples dinners and play awkward parlour games, at which Kaja’s taciturn husband asks his neighbour “Do you hunt?” “No, I sing in a choir” is the cheerful reply. Kaja beams at everyone.
This somewhat politically incorrect, witty, bittersweet comedy swiftly twists into unexpected territory that provides the narrative catalyst for everyone’s lives to change. Not, of course, without emotional torment along the way. The adults’ scarcely articulated revelations and the children’s horseplay sting like a paper cut – then are salved at once by the slapstick of misinterpreted feelings and bumbling attempts at intimacy.
It’s not exactly deep enough to warrant the description “an uncomfortable watch”, but its lightness is probably the film’s advantage. Watched with the optimistic disposition of its lead, Happy, Happy may indeed charm, but beware: it’s certainly not all joy, joy