The Unpredictability of Life
“Happy Endings” is made up of multiple stories that create a witty look at love, family and the sheer unpredictability of life itself. Directed by Don Roos, we see three semi-related California tales concerning men and women coping with the complexities of sex (and ensuing pregnancies), and by the film’s conclusion, every one of its vignettes is wrapped up in a sweet, semi-neat fashion.
Mamie (Lisa Kudrow, Friends) is a counselor in an abortion clinic and she is forced to examine her past when Nicky (Jesse Bradford), a struggling filmmaker, promises to reunite her with the son she gave up for adoption if she allows him to film the reunion for a documentary. Mamie’s ineffectual stepbrother, Charley (Steve Coogan), is gay. His partner, Gil (David Sutcliffe), is friends with a lesbian couple to whom he once donated sperm. The couple does indeed have a baby, but they allegedly used an anonymous donor, not Gil’s sperm. Charley is not so sure and soon becomes obsessed with proving his theory that his friends are lying so they won’t have to share the child with Gil.
Young and gay Otis (Jason Ritter), who works in Charley’s restaurant, meets the sly, gold digging Jude (Maggie Gyllenhaal). After taking a tour of Otis’ palatial home, Jude seduces the confused teenager and uses their relationship as a stepping-stone to get to his father, Frank (Tom Arnold). As her relationship with Frank progresses, Jude finds herself developing genuine feelings for him, much to Otis’ dismay. Of the three stories, the most engaging is that of Otis and Jude. There is a strange intensity between the two and Jude is by far the most passionate and enticing character in this movie. In fact, Maggie Gyllenhaal’s performance as Jude is so good that the rest of the film suffers when she is not on screen.
The story of Mamie and her boyfriend Javier (Bobby Cannavale), and Nicky is uneven. Her relationship with Javier is entirely confusing., Javier is supposedly Mexican, yet Cannavale does not look Hispanic and speaks with a cartoonish Mexican accent. If he is Mamie’s boyfriend, as opposed to just a boy toy, why does she frequent his massage parlor when she could just get the same thing at home for free?.
The weakest story is Charley’s. Whereas Jude and Mamie both struggle with decisions that will drastically alter their lives, Charley merely indulges a fanciful theory that does not even affect him as much as his apathetic boyfriend Gil. Charley just comes off as shallow and neurotic. Jude and Mamie both act recklessly at times, but their ability to self-reflect and learn from their mistakes is a rare and refreshing trait to see in a character. Charley never grows, never learns, and his poorly thought out schemes seem more like the plot of a Friday night sitcom than the stuff of great drama. Additionally, Gil and his lesbian friends never respond to Charley’s odd behavior as real people would.