There are movies that inspire hope, joy and enthusiasm for life. And then there are movies that seem to dig into your flesh and rip your soul from your body, sucking all happiness away. If Another Happy Day, the new movie from writer/director Sam Levinson, were a Harry Potter character, it'd be a dementor, its sole purpose to depress anyone who crosses its path.
Another Happy Day isn't a Harry Potter character, however. It's a downbeat family drama starring Ellen Barkin as Lynn, an overly emotional mother who is preparing for her son Dylan's wedding. Thomas Haden Church, Kate Bosworth, Ezra Miller, Demi Moore, Ellen Burstyn, George Kennedy also star, but to describe their characters would be a waste of time. Each is as depressing and unlikable as the next.
It's not uncommon to see a movie about depressed characters - in fact, many great movies have been made about characters who struggle to be happy - but the sarcastically titled Another Happy Day completely misses the mark. The audience should care for at least one of the characters, yet Levinson seems to go out of his way to make every single personal utterly unlikable.
Ellen Barkin turns in a fine performance, but her frazzled, hyperemotional character is too crazy to handle. If the audience was supposed to sympathize with her it's unclear, as she seems to go off the deep end for no particular reason. If she's meant to evoke sympathy for those around her, Levinson also missed the mark. Her exchanges with her middle son Elliot (Ezra Miller) inspire appreciation for the teenager... until he opens his mouth and proves he's even more unlikable than she is.
Another Happy Day is a movie without protagonists, and a movie without even a single protagonist is not much of a movie at all.
Though emotionally supercharged and filled with dramatic performances, Another Happy Day is a painfully dark drama where nothing is really accomplished. It's like Rachel Getting Married but without the subtle intricacies that make the audience see light at the end of the tunnel; Levinson attempts to shove his miserable characters down the audience's throat. The result: a gagging sound, a frustratingly unpleasant experience full of screeching and misery.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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