Saturday, May 15, 2010

Movie with Abe: Happiness Runs

Happiness Runs
Directed by Adam Sherman
Released May 7, 2010

For a film about noticing imperfections in a supposedly utopian society, this movie sure possesses its share of them. It sets itself up as a portrait of one young man who fashions himself the lone voice of reason in a community so caught up in its free living and incestuous behavior that it has lost touch of reality, but in the pursuit of that story, it gets horribly derailed and doesn’t offer many worthwhile pit stops along the way. This is one case where the experience of watching the film feels like being part of the society it represents – somewhat intriguing as an idea, but ultimately unsustainable.

“Happiness Runs” focuses on the second generation of people immersed in the hippie lifestyle, those born on a commune whose parents have also had sex with one another and most of who have no real concept of the world outside their small and free community. Trying incredibly hard to make its characters seem excessively like hippies makes the film lose sight of its attempts to get to know its characters and the way that they see life through the lens of their limited experiences. The point is to showcase and represent a culture, but the specific story of young Victor that has been chosen as the film’s focal point is deeply problematic.

Victor is not a very strong character in any sense of the word, and the film suffers as a result as his incompetence as a protagonist. Instead of letting tensions subtly and smartly bubble to the surface, everything is put right out there in the open from the start by the dopey, whiny Victor. While it’s certainly not his fault, he is unable to find anyone who shares his viewpoints, and that makes him seem all the more out of place and incapable as a lead character. The dialogue is horrendous, and none of the unremarkable young actors portraying the generation of youth help to make it any less painful. The cartoonish, buffoonish adults in the film only make matters worse, as played by three otherwise talented actors not in good form here, Rutger Hauer, Andie MacDowell, and Mark Boone Junior.

Apart from the poorly-conceived and even more poorly developed characters, the film flops due to its abuse of filmic devices. Drug and alcohol use serve as an excuse not just for the bad behavior of the characters, but also for pointless, overlong tangents from the film’s narrative. The dream sequences experienced by Victor are the worst, since the escape from the earthly confines of the utopian community only means a switchover to unbounded inanity. The film gets even less logical as it goes on, when the characters begin taking ecstasy and doing even stupider things. The sky changes quickly from day to night and then back to day again overhead in the background, skipping through time frequently in order to push forward the increasingly senseless story. Just as utopian communities were an intriguing idea that didn’t work out well at all, this movie might have sounded like an interesting project, but the result isn’t worth visiting.


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