Movies that give me nothing to write about, or any real opinion aside from “it was fine”, are the worst type of movies to review. It’s unfortunately something that happens more than I’d like it to, but with Happiness my disappointment couldn’t be any greater. A film that I’d been meaning to watch ever since I took on the role of a self-described film critic. A movie that I’d been wanting to check out years before I snowballed into becoming a writer. It was very much a movie that had lingered with me for a while. So it’s a real shame then that, seconds after finishing Happiness, it was already another film I wouldn’t care to think of for some time.
Possibly the most interesting part of the film is where it goes wrong. A heavy setlist of recognisable actor’s star in variously large roles that connect together as flimsily as a bridge made of wool. Three sisters, their parents, a man that live next door to one of the sisters, his neighbour, a nuclear family, the father of this family treats the man that lives next door to one of the sisters. This haphazard connectivity is one of the most interesting premises of the film, but unfortunately rapidly turns into one of its greatest drawbacks.
The lacklustre connections between these characters make the turbulence of its plot random and sporadic, to the point where the film cuts away from one set of characters at the peak of their interest. We could be viewing Bill Maplewood (Dylan Baker) as his story peaks, but then cut away suddenly for some more exposition with Joy Jordan (Jane Adams). It makes for an unfiltered viewing, which is great, but it destroys any form of pacing or build-up for any of its stories, revelling in how much is going on, rather than how much of it is any good.
If it weren’t for the sickeningly twisted performance that Phillip Seymour Hoffman gives us, then Happiness would be, without a doubt, the biggest waste of time to hit me in recent memory. So harmfully cold that the lack of likeability in any single character makes it hard to invest yourself into the performances or consequences that befall such a strangely connected, and completely irredeemable bunch of middle classed individuals.
Happiness does have a couple sparks of inspiration or ingenuity, but these pieces are few and far between, making it an unfortunately dull comedy that mistakes dark comedy for gross out tidbits of eccentric law breaking. Some of it sticks, but it’s a hell of a lot of misfires to get through to the handfuls of uniqueness that await.