|Happy Endings (2005)
Starring: Tom Arnold, Jesse Bradford, Bobby Cannavale, Sarah Clarke, Steve Coogan, Laura Dern, Lisa Kudrow, Jason Ritter, David Sutcliffe, Maggie Gyllenhaal
Director: Don Roos
“Happy Endings,” written and directed by Don Roos (“The Opposite of Sex,” “Bounce”), employs all the elements of clever story telling and state of the art film work. When the reel starts, you may very well feel that you are catching an episode of “The Real World.” Roos’ smooth direction and disparate yet integrated story lines swirl at the ends and eventually come together in a tender understanding of the most subtle and vulnerable aspects of human nature.
The cast provides a glut of talent in an emotionally demanding, yet comedic script.
Lisa Kudrow is warm and real as Mimi, the central character around whom the story revolves. Mimi is approached by Nick, (Jesse Bradford) who blackmails her into helping him make a documentary film that could earn him a scholarship to film school. His leverage is that he knows the name and whereabouts of the child she gave up for adoption some 20 years earlier, a child fathered by her now-gay stepbrother Charly (Steve Coogan) who lives with Gil (David Sutcliffe). Charly and Gil are best friends with a lesbian couple Pam (Laura Dern) and Diane (Sarah Clarke) who have a one year old son, Max. Confused? Don’t be. The story rolls along in a matter of fact way with the help of captions to keep the viewer up to speed.
Working for Charly at his restaurant is Otis (Jason Ritter). Ritter is vulnerable and powerful in his portrayal of Otis, the gay son of the very rich and widowed Frank (Tom Arnold). Ritter’s performance is sweet and convincing as a young man struggling with his sexuality and his desire to be loved and accepted by his father. Arnold is the plodding, if not somewhat naïve, single father. Frank is generous and emotionally supportive of Otis’ band and encourages him in a relationship with the streetwise and manipulative Jude (Maggie Gyllenhaal). Jude sees her opportunity to slide into an easy lifestyle with Frank by threatening to out Otis to his dad. Frank easily falls for Jude and the real test of Frank and Otis’ relationship begins.
Nick, Mimi and Javier (Bobby Cannavale) are trapped in their own mess as the story unfolds. Cannavale is unctuous and sexy as the Latino massage therapist around whom Nick and Mimi’s documentary will revolve. Bradford is a standout as the impish asshole who lulls Mimi and Javier into his hapless scheme that, in the end, reveals more truth than either of them had wanted to know, perhaps providing more than just “Happy Endings.” Gyllenhaal as Jude is as real as you want her to be. She comes off kooky and calculating and, as always, sexy in that pixie sort of way. Don Roos has created a multi layered piece that is punctuated by incredible insight and dominated by moving, well crafted, and thoughtful performances of a dynamic and talented cast.
~Shelly M. Perry