Review: Happy Hour

This is the rote story of a sarcastic drunk who falls in love with a one-night stand and learns he has cirrhosis of the liver all in the same week.

Happy Hour
Photo: O'Hara/Klein Releasing

“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.

 Cast: Anthony LaPaglia, Eric Stoltz, Caroleen Feeney, Robert Vaughn, Sandrine Holt, Thomas Sadoski, Mario Cantone  Director: Mike Bencivenga  Screenwriter: Mike Bencivenga, Richard Levine  Distributor: O'Hara/Klein Releasing  Running Time: 94 min  Rating: NR  Year: 2003  Buy: Video

Ed Gonzalez

Ed Gonzalez is the co-founder of Slant Magazine. His writing has also appeared in The Village Voice and The Los Angeles Times. He’s a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, the Critics Choice Association, and the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association.

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