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USA 1998
Directed by
Todd Solandz
133 minutes
Rated R

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Happiness

Todd Solandz's film opens with a marvellous scene in which an unprepossessing male (Jon Lovitz) is rejected by the young lady (Jane Adams) of his fancy . What makes it so good is that although it appears to a typically squishy rom-com scenario writer-director Solandz suddenly flips it on it head and from the sentimental melancholy of love's labours lost we suddenly erupt into anger and bile.

And so Solandz ushers us into a world of pain - of losers who pretend to be winners because that is what society demands of them, because that is what they want to be in his mordant story of three sisters.  Adams stands out as the ironically named Joy, who stumbles from one inter-personal disaster to the next, softening the otherwise rather bitter taste which the other characters  - such as Philip Seymour Hoffman's chronic masturbator and woman-hater and Dylan Baker's paedophile psychiatrist -  tend to leave.   

Narratively, Solandz has trouble juggling the various narrative threads. Lara Flynn Boyle's celebrity author is a rather weakly drawn and underdeveloped character whilst story of the sister's etranged parents played by Ben Gazzara and Louise Lasser (at one time muse to Woody Allen, whose films clearly Solandz would know) largely evaporates.

Although a little too persistently inverted to be entirely convincing as a portrait of the human comedy, and it never again hits the high of that opening scene, the pleasure of the film is that it eschews the standard character typology and feel-good closure of Hollywood rom-coms for a kind of gallows humour that wants you to laugh so that you don't cry.

DVD Extras: None

Available from: Magna Pacific

 

 

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