“A love story, straight up with a twist.” So goes the ad campaign for Mike Bencivenga’s Happy Hour, the rote story of a sarcastic drunk played by Anthony LaPaglia who falls in love with a one-night stand and learns he has cirrhosis of the liver all in the same week. A copy editor for a New York City ad agency, the snarky Tulley (LaPaglia) speaks as if he’s perpetually writing shrill ad copy inside his head. His best friend Levine (Eric Stoltz) and new gal pal Natalie (Caroleen Feeney) similarly contribute to the non-stop snark fest (see random references to the Ides of March and Bruce Springsteen), a comedy tour that takes the characters between a local bar, Tulley’s disheveled apartment, and the ad agency where an up-and-coming sleaze named Scott (Tom Sadoski) is conspiring to get the drunk fired. The whole thing is intercut with dreary shots of New York and trite narration by Tully, whose self-deprecation at first suggests a wannabe Rat Packer until you realize he’s simply reading excerpts from a novel he’s been working on for 17 years. It goes unsaid that the cirrhosis churns his creative juices, and though Natalie claims that he’s a great writer (she reads his acclaimed short stories on the down-low), you wouldn’t know it from the narration. Walking into the steely tower where he works, Tulley bemoans in smoky Sinatra-like voiceover: “My penitentiary. The place I’m swallowed each morning and coughed out each night.” This is the kind of tripe that wouldn’t get past a junior editor at a publishing house.
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