Writer/director Don Loos has the corner on bizarre, wiggly, frustrating, veritas-infused glimpses at the absurdity of human 'communications/relationships' happening right now. His previous writings (some with direction credits) include 'The Opposite of Sex', 'Boys on the Side', 'Love Field', and 'Bounce', all of which explore the desperate need for regular people to find just a hint that their time on the planet makes a difference - at least in some small way despite their larger delusions. His characters are quirky, both bigger than life and pathetically dreary, and cross the lines of the expected borders of types: Roos is one of the few directors who consistently plays the 'minority groups' (gays, lesbians, African Americans, Hispanics, etc) as simply other characters on the playing field of life. And for that he deserves some respect from everyone.
HAPPY ENDINGS (suggestively referring to the ad promise found in masseur/masseuse in the Massage Available columns of magazines and some newspapers!) follows the lives of multiple characters whose rather insignificant existences intersect in random ways that produce ten 'stories', all interrelated. Topics on the table include abortion, gay relationships, homophobia, parental dysfunction/child dysfunction, emotional manipulation, blackmail, filmmaking, artificial insemination, failed dreams, and more. Sound like ingredients for a comedy? Well, no, but in Roos' funky hands these incipient tragic topics weave through tragic trails that result in dark comedy outcomes. And that is the fun of the film.
Yes, there are problems with the movie that others have pointed out well. The gimmick of sidebars explaining what the script doesn't attack, visible on the half screen with scene change action, begin as clever and end up as annoying: if the script can't carry the issues without footnotes then there is just too much information for the viewer to digest. What keeps this movie afloat are the performances by Maggie Gyllenhaal, Lisa Kudrow, Jesse Bradford, Bobby Carnavale, Tom Arnold, Steve Coogan, Laura Dern, Sarah Clarke, Jason Ritter, David Sutcliffe and Amanda Foreman. This is a talented cast and at times we feel they are actually overcoming the plot's weaknesses with their strong imagery.
Every Roos film feels like a work in progress, but there are enough fine lines of creativity that promise us someday they will all gel into an exceptional film. This one is too long and too choppy and too difficult to follow with all the visual interruptions of sidebar words to be his best work. Grady Harp,