In the Neighborhood
When 21-year-old Tracy (Amanda Bauer) walks in on boyfriend Mark (Jack DePew), having sex with a man, she immediately decides to leave him. But then after assessing her limited options, Tracy comes back with a deal: If he agrees to marry her, she’ll forget the incident ever happened. Mark accepts her terms, but neither of them fully understands the sacrifices that both will have to make (what are the chances that he will succeed?). As their relationship deteriorates, Tracy manages to compensate for the troubles in her marriage by becoming friendly with the quirky residents of her Los Feliz neighborhood: Sebastian (Rhys Ward), a troubled recluse; Luann (Janeane Garofalo), a former child star and true free spirit; Krista (Melissa McBride), Mark’s hard-charging talent manager; Jonathan (Stephen Guarino), a gay magazine reporter; and Ricky (Arturo del Puerto), a hot Mexican with a failing food truck. Tracy does discover her true sense of self as well as a passion for cooking and ends up being catalyst that forces them all to grow and to connect in unforeseen ways.
Directed by Tom Gould and John Serpe “The Happys” is a comedy of errors for the American dream. It is funny in that the characters are constantly making mistakes in the interest of gaining their own proposed American Dream. Tracy wants to live a happy life with her boyfriend even after catching him in bed with a man. The boyfriend, Mark, wants to live the life of a gay movie star, even if the movies he’s starring in are inane and his sexual orientation could ruin his career. Sebastian is attempting to live a quiet life inside of having food delivered to him and tanning in the backyard— it is a life of loneliness, yet affluence. “The Happys” isn’t about happy people. It’s about people in the desperate struggle of being what they think is happy.
At first, the film seems like a typical L.A. young people’s comedy. The characters are fueled by situations that slowly grow into a narrative that comes together on jokes, but there is irony to everything in the implications of all the characters’ actions. What makes it funny is that the characters get what they think is happiness and then start to act against their own interest to simply sustain this. Through their actions, we see who they are just by acting, which keeps the narrative surprising and the emotional journey everyone goes through honest. When it is over, there a sense of hope that its characters will find happiness.
We know that Mark will never be able to keep hi promise to Tracy. They probably know that as well. They were childhood sweethearts back in Wisconsin for years and have come to L.A. for Mark to pursue his acting career. The situation is not helped by the fact that Tracy has no job and little life beyond fussing over Mark. She spends all her days aimlessly wandering around her new neighborhood trying out all the different delights of fusion food trucks which seems to be her one genuine passion.
This neighborhood is known by the locals as The Happys for some unknown reason, and with a real sense of irony, this whole cast of quirky characters is anything but that as Tracy soon discovers. At the center of all the drama is Mark who is dealing with the knowledge drummed into him by nearly everyone that he cannot be a movie star and gay too, and that he must make a choice.
There are no real surprises as to how all the plot lines will pan out, but that’s fine because the journey there is made that much more enjoyable with the unhappy scenario that has some fun comic touches. We have good performances all around. Quite basically this is an amusing look at how happy a bunch of unhappy people really are.