Review: “Happy Happy”
March 23, 2012
“Happy Happy,” a cruel and satirical comedy on the nature of Norwegian relationships, is a strange and confusing film by Anne Sewitsky.
Kaja, frantically played by Agnes Kittelsen, is a bubbly and nervous schoolteacher who lives with her husband Eirek (Joachim Rafaelsen), who has a Brokeback Mountain Complex (likes to go hunting, but doesn’t do much hunting), and their son Theodor (Oscar Hernaes Brandso). Elisabeth (Maibritt Saerens) and Sigve (Henrik Raelsen), a couple with an adopted Ethiopian son named Noa (Ram Shihab Ebedy), rent a home from Kaja and Eirek in hopes of rekindling their love life.
The games begin early when Kaja, weeping after confessing that she hasn’t made love in a year, decides to fellate the handsome and charming Sigve. They have a wonderful time romping around for a few weeks while Eirek, unable to admit he’s a homosexual, also falls for Sigve and gets rejected by him after a romantic post-jogging stretching session. The plot is predictable, but high energy levels keep the film rolling and the laughs coming.
The action is segmented by cuts to a charming quartet of American singers who sing traditional spiritual and folk songs. The breaks reminded me that it is some sort of a game, and nothing should be taken all that seriously.
However, the bitter and hilarious antics eventually give way to a sappy sentimentality that lacks the bite of the first half of the film, and, because there wasn’t much time for character development during the antics, the sentimentality feels shallow.
“Happy Happy” falls limp in the attempt to create social commentary by having the white child re-enact slave rituals with Noa, the naive Ethiopian boy, during their play time. And what makes it stranger is that the string of racism, neither parodic nor meaningful, is resolved by Noah watching a youtube video of Barack Obama discussing globalization and modernity.
Amidst all the drama between Sigve, Kaja and Eirek, I could not help feeling that Elisabeth became lost in the story. She is reduced to a simplistic, bitter and cold presence, who suddenly, now that her husband has fallen in love with another, needs his love. It’s revealed that she had cheated on Sigve and that’s why they moved out to the country, but the opportunity to explore the nuances of their relationship is lost, which would be fine if it were the comedy it sometimes is, but when confronted the banality of sentimentality, a more thorough examination of relationships is called for. It’s hard to feel a connection with the ensemble when each character’s role and destiny is so predictable.
“Happy Happy” is good for a number of laughs and gasps, but in the end it falls victim to an identity crisis, unable to connect lucid comedy with its desire to explore anything meaningful in the problems of betrayal, forgiveness, or love.
— JOSEPH WOZNY
Joseph Wozny is a writer and musician in Houston.