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Another Happy Day (2011)

DVD Cover (Peace Arch)
Genres:
Drama, Family Drama, Psychological Drama
Director:
Sam Levinson Sam Levinson
Starring:
Ellen Barkin Ellen Barkin
Ezra Miller Ezra Miller
Ellen Burstyn Ellen Burstyn
Demi Moore Demi Moore
Thomas Haden Church Thomas Haden Church

6.1 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by bluemeanie
Added: December 07, 2011
Just because you 'can' make a movie doesn't mean you 'should'.

Such describes "Another Happy Day", a film that has so much going for it but watches as it all pales in comparison to a script that offers no foundation for any of it. It might be the best bad script I have ever seen unfold on screen. I have to think writer/director Sam Levinson has a world of talent inside of him but he somehow managed to go the way of ambiguity and that talent seems lost and crippled down that path.

The film focuses on the character of Lynn (Ellen Barkin), a sensitive and emotionally unstable mother of Elliot (Ezra Miller) who has been in and out of rehab; Ben (Daniel Yelsky) who has a mild form of autism and films everything with his camera; and Alice (Kate Bosworth) who cuts herself and is also emotionally troubled. The family travel to stay with the in-laws so Lynn's oldest son, Dylan (Michael Nardelli) can get married. Lynn's ex-husband, Paul (Thomas Haden Church), was physically abusive to her and took Dylan while she took Alice.

The film is about the wedding. And the way the family interact with one another. Ellen Burstyn and George Kennedy star as Doris and Joe, Lynn's parents. Doris is cold and distant and doesn't seem to like her daughter very much. Joe is aging and is referenced as being close to the end. Lynn's sisters (Diana Scarwid & Siobhan Fallon) sit around and gossip all the time, making things more difficult for everyone. And then there's Patty (Demi Moore), Paul's new wife who dislikes Lynn, and vice versa, and goes out of her way to be an absolute bitch.

Here's the problem - there are no sympathetic characters in this film. This is one of the worst dysfunctional families I have ever seen created on screen and everything is just cloying on the nerves. Lynn is the worst. Ellen Barkin does a fantastic job creating the character but the character is just so annoying. Lynn always seems to be the victim and is always either crying or on the verge of bursting out into tears. Ezra Miller, as her troubled son, is also just as annoying - an immature piece of work who is just as selfish as his mother. You have to worry how the character Jeffrey DeMunn plays managed to live with all of the insanity. That doesn't work either.

Another problem: we get very little back story on any of these characters. All we know about Lynn and Paul is that they had a turbulent marriage and that Paul was abusive. We don't know anything really about the ensuing years and how the children became so distant from one another. We don't know why the Ellen Burstyn character seems to dislike Lynn so much and why she seems to side with everyone else but her own daughter. None of that is ever explained, but Burstyn's delivers an Oscar-worthy performance in the mean time. The Kate Bosworth character is also a complete mystery. She and Barkin spend most of the film explaining why she is having such a difficult time and it's never really explained why that is. Why is her life so damned miserable?

Other problems: I don't understand the George Kennedy character. They keep saying he is close to death but he seems healthy as a horse. One moment Burstyn's is saying he's in the hospital and could go any moment and then we see him walking down the aisle at the wedding. It is never explained that the man has dementia yet he wanders off all the time. It just confused me and seemed like a convenient plot contrivance.

I was infuriated by this film. It has so much going for it. Barkin, Burstyn and Church are outstanding here and Ezra Miller and Kate Bosworth offer noble support as well. But the script gives them no foundation for what they are doing and, in turn, no reason for the audience to root for them. How can we? These are terrible people who seem determined to stay stuck in their own mire. "Another Happy Day" is not a bad film. It just doesn't know what it wants to be, and it doesn't because it was never written in the script. 5/10.
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