I like depressing movies. I really like depressing movies. So when I saw the preview for Happy-Go-Lucky, a movie about an overly bubbly woman who goes around being - well - bubbly, I balked. The movie looked annoying, stupid and boring.
But, I can be wrong sometimes. It's a rare occurrence, but I can be wrong. And I was wrong about Happy-Go-Lucky. Sally Hawkins, who was nominated for Best Actress, turns in a star-turning performance, and writer/director Mike Leigh makes that performance possible with an entertaining, surprisingly layered story.
Hawkins stars as Poppy, a schoolteacher whose optimism and cheeriness often drains those around her. After her bike is stolen, she hires a man (Eddie Marsan) to teach her how to drive - but her goofiness starts to gnaw at his soul. She also begins to explore a relationship with a young man at school.
There's not much of a plot to Happy-Go-Lucky, but it's a surprisingly complex character drama that doesn't need traditional plot points. Hawkins is incredible and evokes laughs at nearly every turn. I would strangle her if I had to spend much time with her, but she makes for a great lead character. Marsan is also excellent in an understated but commanding role that takes place almost exclusively within a car.
Happy-Go-Lucky is funny and entertaining, but is unlike a traditional comedy. The movie relies heavily on Hawkins' performance, and yet it feels natural and real thanks to Leigh's screenplay and direction. Happy-Go-Lucky isn't for everyone, but it is one of the rare feel-good movies of 2008.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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