Lisa Kudrow……….Miriam ‘Mamie’ Toll
Steve Coogan……….Charley Peppitone
Jesse Bradford……….Nicky Kunitz
Bobby Cannavale……….Javier Duran
Jason Ritter……….Otis McKee
Tom Arnold……….Frank McKee
David Sutcliffe……….Gilbert ‘Gil’ Palmer
Laura Dern……….Pam Ferris
Dark comedies are a difficult type of movie to make, there are too many variables that could make them fall flat on their faces. The characters are suppose have poor judgment and be politically incorrect. They shouldn’t have many redeeming qualities but at the same time have something about them that we can’t quite put our fingers on that have us understand where they’re coming from. Don Roos is known for writing flawed characters that we some how manage to understand, Happy Endings is a prime example of his talent. The movie is broken up into three smaller stories that all get tied together.
When Mamie Toll was a teenager she had a child with her step brother Charlie but was forced to put the baby up for adoption when their parents found out about the situation. Since then her and her step brother don’t really talk much, the awkwardness never really went away. When their parents died they were left their restaurant that Charlie now looks over the buisnes aspects of the place. Mamie doesn’t care much about it, it’s only hers because it was left to her, it’s not like she ever actually wanted the place. And that’s probably a good thing since Charlie has managed to just about run the place into the ground.
After the events of his teenage years Charlie was changed for the rest of his life, for starters when he was 21 he had a vasectomy. But the one big thing is now he’s gay, and lives with his boyfriend Gil. For a few years Gil’s friends Pam and Diane who are a lesbian couple tried to conceive a baby but Gil’s sperm never took. However Pam and Diane did eventually get pregnant, and Max their son is now two years old. Only Charlie is beginning to suspect Pam and Diane have in fact used Gil’s sperm to have their baby and they’re covering it up so they don’t have to share custody and keep Max to themselves. Charlie and Gil then start to believe that the theory may have some truth to it after all.
Mamie on the other hand has gone on to be an abortion counselor helping young women make an important decision that could affect their lives forever. Until one day she gets a letter telling her they have information about her son she gave up over 18 years ago. Nicky is the guy who sends her the shady letter and he uses the information he has on her son to get a documentary out of it, you see he wants to film her journey to her son and their reunion together then submit it to AFI for a scholarship. But she won’t be a part of it, however she does want the information Nicky has about her son so she offers him another idea for a documentary. That idea is to make a fake documentary that follows her masseuse boyfriend, (well I wouldn’t call him a boyfriend, perhaps casual acquaintance fits better) and shoot him as if he gives happy endings to the elitist high class women of Beverly Hills.
The third and final piece to this puzzle revolves around Otis and Frank McKee a father son duo that have always had a rift between them since the passing of Otis’s mother when he was eight. Now Otis is 22 and works at Charlie’s restaurant as an MC for karaoke night. He also is in his own band, of which the lead singer we learn is in rehab and he and the guys need a replacement ASAP. One day he runs into Jude who he believes is the answer to all his bands woes. And he’s right, however once he welcomes her into his house he opens up a whole new can of worms when Jude begins to play a mind game between Otis and his father by trying to sleep her way into their lifestyle.
The cast from top to bottom pull off some wonderful performances and in a character driven movie that’s the one part that can’t be jeopardize. first there’s Lisa Kudrow who still shows she has monumental range as an actress playing the constantly lost Mamie who is always searching to fill the void she’s had ever since she was a teenager giving up her only kid. Tom Arnold is a completely new man in the movie as the lovable loser Frank who manages to get the audiences pity for the character he plays instead of his performance for once. Jesse Bradford and Jason Ritter are certainly two young actors worth keeping an eye on for years to come based on their work here. And Maggie Gyllenhaal does some of her best work to date as Jude.
When you’re dealing with three stories it’s easy to have certain characters be lost in the shuffle. Sadly that’s the case with Happy Endings. The Charlie and Gil story manages to take up more time than was needed for it yet at the same time only develops one character, Charlie. all of the others quickly become background noise, it’s a shame really because that’s the only part that keeps the movie bogged down. Some just take up too much screen time that could have gone to further others that were more enticing.
Which is so strange because it’s written very well, nothing comes off as on the nose, it’s all believable situations with believable characters. How Don is able to bring all of these people to life is a real task that he seems to do with ease. They just seem so real, as if they were your next door neighbors. And that sense of reality helps you fully let yourself get lost in the movie. Happy endings is a term that has many meanings much like the movie will have you leave with many feelings.
(Presented in 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen)
The movie is shot in a documentary-esque style allowing the camera free reign and with that comes a lot of obstacles that could tarnish the footage, things like out of focus images for instance. Thankfully those sort of problems are almost non-existent and what’s here for a transfer is very pleasant.
(English Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 surround)
While Don Roos is known for his directing and writing, he also knows how to pick music that goes hand in hand with the mood of the movie and the scenes, this time is no different. Since this is a character movie not much is needed from the rear speakers or subwoofer, but when they are utilized you’ll notice the difference.
Feature Length Commentary – Director Don Ross, Director of Photography Clark Mathis and Actress Lisa Kudrow sit and talk about the movie covering the characters, story, shooting and lighting. There are some dead spots on the track where it just cuts out for no apparent reason then returns a few moments later to begin talking about what’s happening. It’s interesting hearing Roos talk about how all the characters were written to have a metaphorical twin, like how Jude and Mamie are one and the same just like Otis and Charlie are similar.
“Making of” Featurette (11 mins) – The cast talk about Roos and his talent of writing and directing which leads to Don talking about how he came up with the stories. After that the cast talk about their role in the film with others commenting on their performance, this is your standard “making of” piece created by the studio.
Deleted Scenes (15 mins) – There are 10 deleted scenes include with optional commentary by the same three people involved on the movie’s commentary track. Most are scenes that fill in gaps between what’s in the movie and it makes sense why they’re here as some change the mood and flow of what the director ultimately wanted with the final cut.
Gags (4 mins) – The Gag reel piece also has an optional commentary track but the commentary is just them laughing. It runs a bit too short but what’s here is pretty funny stuff, worth checking out at least one time.
Montage (3 mins) – Much like the above two special features, there is an optional commentary and it’s revealed on the track that all the small shorts here were intended as bumpers that would be placed during the movie as segues but they never found any places to include them.
Trailers – Linos Gate has included trailers for Crash, Rize, Slipstream, A Killer Upstairs, Weeds & Lord of War here but oddly enough they don’t have the trailer for Happy Endings anywhere on the disc.