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Basic Plot. May include spoilers, but the intent is to show the complexity and confusion.
This film runs with three subplots that stay disconnected for too long. Charley (Steve Coogan) and Mamie (Lisa Kudrow) are step siblings who have a child together, except Charley thinks it was aborted. The child was put up for adoption. Oh yeah, Charley is gay and Mamie is having an affair with her masseuse. Charley believes his partner Gil (David Sutcliffe) is the biological father of the child of a lesbian couple through sperm he had donated. A bad independent film maker (Jesse Bradford) convinces Mamie to go look for her son so he can film it, even though the son doesn't want to be found. Meanwhile Otis (Jason Ritter) rich son of Tom Arnold is gay...he thinks, but scores with Jude (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who also sleeps with dad, and becomes pregnant seeking the advice of Mamie who works at the clinic.
The film attempts to be clever with printed material to the side, the way VH-1 tries to be clever with "Pop Up Videos" except VH-1 is better. The writers try to be funny with dysfunctional people in unusual relationships, but fails due to the complexity of the plot. They should have made Otis the son of Mamie and Charley in order to bring this full circle, but for some reason overlooked the obvious.
I liked this film because it really was interesting to see how everything got connected. The director and writer Don Roos did a great job with the beginning of the film by immediately grabbing every one's attention! It had so many stories that you had to keep up with and they all did get solved in the end but if you weren't paying attention or thinking then you would have missed one or two of them.
While the story is very interesting and does keep the audience focused, by the end I think it runs a little too long. I also think that actually making the movie have a happy ending kind of softened the impact of the film. Another thing that sort of bugs me was the constant written narration borders that kept appearing. It was creative for the first couple of times but after a while, it got annoying and really took the focus off what was happening in the film.
The acting however in the film was great although I have to mention a few performances that stood out above the rest and those were Lisa Kudrow, Maggie Gyllenhall, Jesse Bradford and Tom Arnold. Kudrow plays a great serious and deep role. Arnold's character is also very dramatic and convincing. Bradford doesn't play the heartthrob here but the wacky documentary film maker. And Gyllenhall's performance is sleazy and cruel. This is Don Roos third attempt at a feature film, and I think it's probably his best too! It's not a perfect film but it is shot so that you feel the emotions of the characters and feel bad for them at times, and find them amusing at times as well.
`Happy Endings' has a terrific story (s), great acting, but it has a few down falls and to me the most disappointing thing about the film was the ending.Read more ›
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Enjoyable Little DiversionNov. 13 2005
- Published on Amazon.com
Having tremendously enjoyed Don Roos' previous effort, the Opposite of Sex, I snapped up Happy Endings upon release of the DVD without knowing anything about it. Many of my friends didn't liked the Opposite of Sex; when I asked them why, each confessed a dislike of Lisa Kudrow. When I noticed she was also in the cast of Happy Endings, and in fact plays one of the main characters, I figured I'd better shut up about mentioning my latest acquisition to some of those friends until I had a chance to watch it. Watch it I did, and I have nothing but good things to report.
Like the Opposite of Sex, Happy Endings revolves around several gay and straight characters, with enough attention paid to both, thus ensuring that the film could appeal to a mixed audience. There is where all similarities end. While Opposite of Sex had a relatively up-front and focused plot, Happy Endings manages to juggle several plots and subplots all at once. Each of the characters lives touch other characters lives in a style not unlike that of director Robert Altman. In fact, I kept thinking that the pacing and juggling of the subplots was somewhat similar to Short Cuts, or even Crash (in the way that Crash was also compared to Altman's style). Keeping everyone sorted out in my mind became something of a chore, but I generally like films that make you think and keep you on your toes. There were one or two surprises, including several totally unexpected plot twists, and that's always good too. As a comedy I didn't laugh so much as I smiled, and I asked myself more than once, "I wonder what will happen next". As the end credits were rolling I decided I enjoyed my visit with these people, and could easily have managed to sit though even more. How often do you hear that about a movie that runs over two hours?
The cast, which includes Tom Arnold, Jason Ritter and Jesse Bradford give even and professional performances throughout. It worked in a way that good ensemble pieces always work; that is, it would be difficult to single out any one member of the cast, as they worked off each other in such a way that no one could expect all the notices. Another good thing, in my book. I am definitely going to suggest to my friends that they give Don Roos another shot, Lisa Kudrow and all. I can certainly think of worse ways to spend a couple of hours.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Major DisappointmentJuly 11 2006
- Published on Amazon.com
I thought that "Happy Endings" contained a lot of worthy elements. That I nonetheless loathed this movie shows just how greatly it failed on every other level.
As has been outlined in other reviews, "Happy Endings" contains a number of interwoven stories, including: a mother searching for the son she gave up for adoption many years prior (*and* her Mexican masseuse/lover *and* the zany would-be documentarian who is a.) blackmailing her and b.) hoping to film her search for the now-grown child), a gay couple who is questioning the paternity of their lesbian friends' young son, and a naughty young wannabe singer who seduces a gay drummer in order to get closer to his wealthy father.
This doesn't just *seem* like a lot of story for one film ... it is a lot of story for one film. And it doesn't help that writer/director Don Roos' script is incessantly bouncy. We are thrown in and pulled out of these tangent plots without ever having a chance to develop an affection for the characters or any sympathy for their plights. Of course, some filmmakers are able to successfully weave different stories together (Altman, for an obvious example) ... so the problem with "Happy Endings" is greater than its jerky and complex storyline. The real problem is that I couldn't care less about (most of) the characters.
Another thing I very much disliked about this film was its use of narrative captions. People say that voice-over is the mark of a lazy writer. If that's true, then captions are the mark of a VERY lazy writer. And they just plain did not work well with this movie. Every time I found myself feeling somewhat absorbed by the story, Roos would throw out a "witty" and ironic caption that jerked me back to reality. It's as if he wants us to respond emotionally to his movie - but then he keeps reminding us "this is just a movie, and I'm a wry director." You can't have it both ways.
Really, Roos just comes across as manipulative to me. Take the first scene. Why does he show Lisa Kudrow being slammed by the car? Simply for the shock value - for the sake of getting our attention. There is no reason for him to jump ahead in the story and start with this scene (right after she is hit, the narrative caption informs us that she is not dead - and then it jumps back in time to when the story *actually* starts). Come to think of it, there's no reason for Kudrow to get hit by the car at all. When the story does arrive at that point (toward the end of the film), the car hits her and then nothing more comes of it. It lends nothing to the plot. Cheap. Manipulative.
With that said, there are a few very funny bits of dialogue in the film (the humorous moments, though few and far between, are deliciously black). Also, Maggie Gyllenhaal did a really great job with her character (the singing seductress). Her performance was fresh, spirited and poignant, and, by the end of the movie, she was the one person I felt a connection to. But these are hardly redeeming elements. Some people obviously like this movie, but I thought it was uninspired, confused and boring. If you want to watch a better version of "Happy Endings" - i.e. a very dark comedy that touches on drama, with a number of interwoven stories and a subversive plot - watch Todd Solondz's "Happiness." It's infinitely more compelling.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
A brilliant beginning and middle can only reap a happy ending!Sept. 15 2006
- Published on Amazon.com
I have to say that `Happy Endings' will go down as one of the most fulfilling experiences I've had with cinema this year. At the film's closing I was left content and approving, never once feeling gypped or left wanting. I was completely satisfied, which is funny because I've read a few reviews where people loved everything but the ending, but to me you can't go wrong ending on a close-up of the wonderfully talented Maggie Gyllenhaal singing us a lullaby.
`Happy Endings' (a title made in reference to the act of making a massage customer EXTRA happy) is a collage of people's lives interacting and eventually coming together for a `happy ending'. We have Mamie (Kudrow) who at a young age was impregnated by her step-brother Charley (Coogan) and since then they've had very little contact. Charley is now `out of the closet' and living with is boyfriend Gil (Sutcliffe) whose best friend Pam (Dern) and her lover Diane (Clarke) have just had a son (Pam being the mother) and are starting to ware on Charley's sanity. Mamie on the other hand is involved with massage therapist Javier (Cannavale) and is not the slightest bit happy with her life, and that only gets worse after meeting Nicky (Bradford) who claims to know where her illegitimate son (the one she had with Charley and then gave up for adoption) is and wants to reunite them under the circumstance that he can film it for his documentary submission into film school.
Then we have Jude (Gyllenhaal), a young attractive floozy who joins a band fronted by Otis (Ritter), a young boy confused about his sexuality and somewhat obsessed with his boss (Charley). Jude exploits that fact, manipulating him into have sex with her in order to steer his father Frank (Arnold) away from speculation his homosexuality, and then using it as blackmail against Otis, forcing him to help her hook up with his father. She is clearly only after his money (he's loaded) and this upsets Otis, but the idea of his father condemning his sexuality leave him no choice but to assist Jude.
As these stories collide we are only drawn to each character, good and bad, and brought to an understanding of what each of them needs to be truly happy. In the end we are given one long `happy ending' showing the outcome of all of these situations and how everyone involved was affected by the outcome...all except for Jude. Her ending is pure speculation, and while that may distress some it really made sense to me. Jude was by far the most engaging and interesting character in the film, due in part to Gyllenhaal's brilliant Oscar caliber performance, and to have her be the only one to get nothing out of the interaction in a way leaves me satisfied, for she was also the most mysterious of the group, for while her intentions where clear what was unclear was her motivation.
Gyllenhaal did absolutely outstanding here, delivering a performance that outweighed most I've seen all year and definitely deserved some awards attention. Also, Kudrow did wonderful, playing against type, but not `Wonderland' against type for her character still infused the comedic timing she is so well loved for...she just honed it into a more mature comedy. Tom Arnold and Steve Coogan are also wonderfully cast, and while she's only on screen a short time, Laura Dern is always a pure delight. I would recommend this film to anyone for it truly was the most satisfying experience, one of at least, I've had for all of 2005.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Life as a View from the Window of a Speeding Downtown MetroNov. 20 2005
- Published on Amazon.com
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,
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
"I run with scissors, too."May 23 2006
- Published on Amazon.com
I don't understand how people can hate this movie. At the end of it I was crying and there was an ache deep in my heart and I couldn't breathe. This isn't your happy comedy. The title is misleading, it is very bittersweet. I would say it's very similar to "Love, Actually" only better: the seemingly different stories in the beginning get connected like how one connects dots. In the end, one realises that you have to take the bitter and the sweet together.