Sunday, January 11, 2009

1/10/09: Happy-Go-Lucky (2008)

Completely plotless and largely pointless, Happy-Go-Lucky is British director Mike Leigh's aimable piffle all about Poppy (Sally Hawkins), an incorrigibly upbeat free spirit who can't take anything or anybody— least of all herself—very seriously. Forever joking and laughing at life's minutiae, Poppy parties with her female friends, jumps on a trampoline, prowls through a bookstore and rarely thinks anything she doesn't say. If the film is about anything, it's Poppy's conflicting role as a teacher (of primary school) versus her role as a student (of Flamenco dancing and driving school), and how her endless effervescence and endearing jokiness ultimately attract the best—and worst—in the people around her. After her bicycle is stolen at the beginning of the film, an incident she naturally laughs off, Poppy pays a grouchy driving instructor to teach her the rules of the road; the scenes detailing their clash of personalities become the glue that holds the film together. Beyond that, we spend a lot of time with her as she goes to a chiropractor, visits her pregnant sister, sleeps with a handsome social worker, and even attempts to mind-meld with a mentally disturbed homeless man. The film urges us, Patch Adams style, to live life to the fullest, and Poppy's cheerful refusal to be serious for three seconds is designed to win our hearts, and it mostly succeeds. (The movie should be called Poppyanna.) She's the sort of girl you wish you knew, but didn't necessarily have to spend two consecutive hours with; in Happy-Go-Lucky, she's onscreen virtually every single second. Whether you flip for Poppy or not, Hawkins does give a star-making performance. With Stanley Townsend and Eddie Marsan. Rating: 3/5.

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