Happy End [DVD]
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France released, PAL/Region 2 DVD: LANGUAGES: English ( Dolby Digital 5.1 ), French ( Dolby Digital 5.1 ), French ( Subtitles ), WIDESCREEN, SPECIAL FEATURES: Interactive Menu, Scene Access, SYNOPSIS: An overly-optimistic French actress ('Amelie's' Audrey Tautou) moves to Manhattan in hopes of finding fame and fortune. She comes close when she meets a screenwriter ('Mulholland Drive's' Justin Theroux) who has scripted a big hit-but he now has writer's block. Amos Kollek ('Fast Food, Fast Women') directs this romantic comedy.
...Happy End ( Nowhere To Go But Up )
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My impression about the film is it is OK ... barely. Well, Audrey Tautou plays a positive-thinking woman named Val, who is a struggling actress from France, dreaming one day that she will be a Hollywood star like Garbo. But now she is living homeless, occasionally sweeping sidewalk for the shop owner and cleaning rooms for a rich lady by day. At night she sleeps in the open, sometimes in Manhattan, just outside the house of a young screenwriter having writer's block. The young writer is Jack (Justine Theroux) who has done nothing since he astonished the film industry with his masterpiece five years ago.
While Val strives to be a professional actress, doing many jobs (including cook at Chinese restraint), meeting unique people (such as poetess/waitress Edna by Jennifer Tilly), Jack realizes that Val could be the inspiration for his new script that is going to be produced by major Hollywood studio.
Though the film's acting is not bad, and handsome Justine Theroux is convincing as Jack who still wants his ex-lover back, the lack of chemistry between Tautou and Theroux is doing considerable harm to the film's credibility. Though I know very well that Amok Kollek is not trying to make another `When Harry Met Sally..." the two leads' relation should be more credible for the film to work even in indie films about oddball characters like this. To make matters worse, the film's satire on Hollywood (which becomes the basis of its `Happy End') is nothing edgy or insightful, reminding that good films are always good, Hollywood-made or not.
One thing should be said about Ms Tautou. It is not surprising to see that in this low-budget film she is loved by the camera, but her character Val often behaves unbelievably even by the standard of independent films, and her unbelievable behaviors are not what would make this character more amusing. Her incessantly spoken fake German (or Swedish?) accent during auditions doesn't make much sense. It is simply annoying, and do not make Val charming or lovable; it is more likely to present her as hopelessly clueless person instead. Tautou's visible effort, or probably the director's effort, to infuse quirky humor into the personality of Val all falls flat. You will also see Val roller-skating or wearing the costume of one famous character from "Hunchback of Notre dame," but actually one single smile from Tautou can do much better than these antics.
It is quite unfortunate that some people always associate Audrey Tautou with Amelie. She is great there, and she can be very different elsewhere if she wants to (see `Dirty Pretty Things' or `He Loves Me... He Loves Me Not'). Surely `Happy End' has such inspired moments - the Laundromat episode is amusing, and its short musical scene at the end is not bad - but here she alone cannot save the entire film from what it is, indie film that fails to captures the great opportunity to make itself several notches better than other films of that ilk.