Film Review


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Happy, Happy

Ram Shihab Ebedy gets the short end of the stick in Happy, Happy. [Photo: FSLC/MoMA]

Happy, Happy 2 out of 4

star2-0

Happy, Happy is another gust of smugly cold air from the land of Bent Hamer. In what may be Norwary's snowiest bumblefuck, a privileged, seemingly perfect couple, Elisabeth (Maibritt Saerens) and Sigve (Henrik Rafaelsen), move next door to a frustrated schoolteacher, Kaia (Agnes Kittelsen), and her possibly queer husband, Eirik (Joachim Rafaelsen). Cartoonish hilarity subsequently ensues, much of it revolving around—as the film's press notes obligingly itemize—"infidelity, moose meat, white and coal-black lies, blowjobs and cottage cheese." At the very least, this mediocre trifle fills the void left behind by Sarah Palin's Alaska.

The film's title, not surprisingly, is ironic, and its faux provocations are plenty, among them a picture-guessing game that ends awkwardly after Eirik tries to get Kaia to deduce "AIDS" by sketching two presumably male stick figures x'ed out beneath a tableau of 9/11-ravaged Manhattan and above an indecipherable mass he intends as Africa. Eirik's logic is pathetically hilarious, though it becomes sad in retrospect when you consider his disinterest in sleeping with Kaia has nothing to do with the yeast infection she adamantly tells Sigve—prior to giving her neighbor an unsolicited blowjob—she only had for a week close to a year ago. Not that director Anne Sewitsky is exactly soliciting our sympathy.

With an epic-length game of "slave" between Kaia and Eirik's son, Theodor (Oskar Hernæs Brandsø), and Elisabeth and Sigve's adopted Ethiopian son, Noa (Ram Shihab Ebedy), the stage seems set for a critique of a nation's miseducation of its youth on matters of race that, well, never materializes. She does, though, give us the satisfaction of putting Theodor in his place, even if the boy's embarrassment betrays the story's logic: When the haughty Elisabeth shoves Theodor's face into a bowl of what may be—God forbid—cottage cheese, her antagonism doesn't make sense, as she, like the other three adults in the film, don't seem privy to the kid's offensive child's play.

After an annoying intro—pastel-pink titles sprinkled throughout a montage of scenic snowscapes—that promises a cutesier experience, possibly in the vein of Wes Anderson or Sofia Coppola, Sewitsky strikes a chillier Moodysson-esque pose. There's a happy ending, but getting there means enduring a series of predictable, slight misunderstandings between the inadequately sketched characters that suggests the filmmakers may have a fondness for Three's Company. Strangely, Sewitsky often interrupts the narrative's half-engaging momentum with cutaways to four of the whitest guys on the planet singing distinctly American anthems. The filmmaker looks to American modes of visual and aural expression to give Happy, Happy its soul, but all her fetish accomplishes is depersonalizing her story, making a sitcom of her character's lives.

Director(s): Anne Sewitsky Screenwriter(s): Ragnhild Tronvoll Cast: Agnes Kittelsen, Joachim Rafaelsen, Maibritt Saerens, Henrik Rafaelsen, Oskar Hernæs Brandsø, Ram Shihab Ebedy, Heine Totland Distributor: Magnolia Pictures Runtime: 88 min Rating: NR Year: 2010

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