Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Small thoughts on 'Happy-Go-Lucky'

So I had the distinct pleasure of watching 'Happy-Go-Lucky' yesterday and all I can say is... Sally Hawkins was robbed! I cannot believe that such a nuanced (yet altogether pithy) performance was missed by the Academy. On the whole it's a well structured film and, we can take some solace in this, received a nomination for Best Original Screenplay, which I would be happy to see Mike Leigh walk away with. I mean, if Diablo Cody could get one....

For those not in the loop, Happy-Go-Lucky is a film that falls within the parameters of social observation... I think... I'm not a film student, the correct jargon is not at my disposal. Anyway, it's the kind of film that introduces a (pseudo) novel concept to an ordinary situation and attempts to find what develops organically. Our concept in this film is Poppy, an irrepressible 30-year old preschool teacher. She seems to be in a permanent state of joviality regardless of the gravity of a given situation. She is robbed, she has to cope with an abusive pupil, and an even more abusive driving instructor. We see the ways in which her particular brand of extroversion affects those around her, sometimes negatively, sometimes positively. More pertinently, it is a reflection on the dispositions of others when we encounter a friendly face. Do we seek do repress it? Do we reciprocate? Do we ignore it? Can we even understand it anymore?

And Hawkins carries the entire film, the camera is fixated on her for, easily, 90% of the running time. Its a weighty demand, even for a lead, and she's infallible. Poppy is an eccentric character with flighty quirks and phrasing. I once sat in on a conversation between some of SA's more esteemed critics: Barry Ronge, Leon van Nierop, ... that guy who I always confuse with Leon van Nierop... and they mused that the particularly eccentric characters were easier to pull off – they were talking about Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker (which I also take issue with, but another time) – but I think it depends on how the eccentricity is carried out. Poppy is consistently irrepressible, yes, but when she finds herself in an unsafe situation, she visibly clutches her handbag to her chest and murmurs to herself. When she finds herself attracted to someone, her head bows and her voice trails. When she does find herself pulled into a confrontation, the smiling stops but the her message remains intact. That's really as much as I can say without spoiling it. Poppy is always a real character, the thing that makes her unique is we see her actively make the choice to be spirited and lively.

Eddie Marsan deserves a special mention for his turn as Poppy's racist, misogynistic, paranoid and altogether sociopathic driving instructor – a well-crafted foil to the exuberant Poppy, superbly executed by the actor.

So that's just something I thought I'd share, I felt like spoiling some virtual paper today, take it or leave it. I wouldn't recommend this film to most of my friends but if it sounds like your cuppa, you wont be disappointed. There are some incredible (looking) films opening within the next fortnight. Personally I cannot wait for The Wrestler, Slumdog Millionaire (especially), Changeling and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Let the good times roll!

PS. I don't mean to rag on Diablo Cody, I loved Juno. I just think if Juno was good enough this one should be too.


HayleyM said...

Now I have to watch the movie!

Warren said...

hehe, i think you'd like it, very British humour mind you.