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Laramie Movie Scope:
Happy Endings

More drama than comedy

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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September 3, 2005 -- “Happy Endings” is a comedy/drama along the same lines as “Mighty Aphrodite,” but far less funny. The story has to do with a woman, Miriam Toll (Lisa Kudrow of “Analyze That”) trying to track down a child she had given up for adoption, and a man, Charley Peppitone (Steve Coogan of “Around the World in 80 Days”) trying to track down the spawn of his partner, Gil (David Sutcliffe of “Under the Tuscan Sun”). There is also another story about a pretty young woman, Jude (Maggie Gyllenhaal of “Secretary”), who seduces, in turns, a young man, Otis (Jason Ritter of “Raise Your Voice”) and his father, Frank (Tom Arnold of “Cradle 2 the Grave”). Both Jude, and another character, Nicky (Jesse Bradford of “Swimfan”) try to use blackmail to get ahead.

There are enough plots in this film for several movies. An unsuccessful attempt is made to tie all these loose threads together into one coherent story. It doesn't work, but it sure is ambitious. The various narrative threads keep unraveling. This movie seems to be more about other movies than it is about people. It is also hard to identify with any of the characters. Most of them are sleazy. Most of them get what they deserve, but that in itself is pretty depressing. They all seem more like Hollywood actors than real people. I've seen characters like them in other movies, but never in real life. Most of them are loud, whiney, self-centered, manipulative slimeballs. If I was at a party and all these characters walked in, I would immediately leave. I would not touch them. Some of their slime might rub off on me.

That being said, the movie does have it comic moments and its dramatic moments. The acting is very good by a very strong cast. Surprises include the strong performance by Tom Arnold and fine performances by Lisa Kudrow and Bobby Cannavale (“The Station Agent”), who plays Javier Duran, who is Miriam Toll's masseur and boyfriend. It is too bad all that talent went into a film with such arbitrary plot developments and such repulsive characters.

The film also appears to make some very conservative arguments regarding sexual preference. It argues that sexual preference is a choice, not a trait one is born with. This view is the same as that held by the Christian Right, but it flies in the face of strong scientific evidence to the contrary. This argument is also the opposite of the arguments made by those fighting the battle for gay rights. This kind of conservative viewpoint is the exact opposite of what I expect to see in a Hollywood film. However, this argument is made by one of the several lying characters in the film, and it appears she makes the argument in order to deceive another character by telling him what he wants to hear. The argument thus appears disingenuous. However, this phoney argument becomes convincing in the overall context of the film because yet another character in the film changes sexual preferences, or at least lifestyles. The argument will be powerful for those who desperately want to believe it. The film strongly argues in favor of abortions of convenience (even going so far as to say this is the only correct opinion on abortion rights), an extremely liberal position. The moral politics of this movie appear to be as confused as its plot. This is slightly worse than director Don Roos' recent film, “Bounce.” This movie rates a C.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2005 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)