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Multi-Layered Deceptions in LA-Based Ennui Makes for a Smart, Meandering Hodgepodge
EUyeshima23 January 2006
Filmmaker Don Roos brings a unique perspective to his films, and this omnibus 2005 film exemplifies his idiosyncratic style quite well. Even though it doesn't work in its entirety, it has a great ensemble cast and some really sharp observations about a loosely connected group of people who have in common a certain disassociation with the inner truths in their lives. In fact, the deceptive nature of the characters is the movie's leitmotif, and Roos crosscuts their interactions with helpful title cards that often explain their inner motivations for their actions.

There are three basic stories that constitute the film, which recalls the multi-layered, somewhat enervated spirit of Robert Altman's "Short Cuts" especially given the LA-based ennui both films portray with accuracy. The first story deals with step-siblings Mamie, who as a teenager, had a one-night stand with her stepbrother Charley. Years later, Mamie is an abortion clinic worker, while Charley, gay and partnered contently with Gil for five years, runs their long-dead parents' last remaining restaurant. Both siblings have their own storyline - Mamie meets Nicky, a grungy filmmaker who wants her to participate in a film about meeting someone from her past. However, she convinces Nicky to make another film entirely about her intermittent lover Javier's massage practice.

The second story revolves around Charley's obsession with the paternity of a son which their lesbian best friends have just conceived. This leads to unexpected revelations that backfire on Charley. The third story focuses on Otis, a closeted teenage drummer who works at Charley's restaurant. Otis meets Jude, a vagabond singer who favors Billy Joel ballads and beds Otis in order to have a place to crash. Once established in the palatial home, she also attaches herself to Otis's divorced father Frank. It all sounds complicated and sometimes feels quite erratic, but Roos makes the film intriguing to watch.

The acting certainly helps. As Mamie, Lisa Kudrow again shows how she can use her somewhat flaky persona in an arresting way that can be funny and heartbreaking. Steve Coogan effectively brings out Charley's neuroses, while Jesse Bradford is convincingly suspect as Nicky. The underutilized Laura Dern doesn't really have much to do as one-half of the lesbian couple (Sarah Clarke is the other half), while Bobby Cannavale gamely brings out the swarthy gamesmanship of Javier. Jason Ritter (the look-alike son of the late John Ritter) plays Otis with the right amount of confusion and anxiety. As the bonhomous Jude, Maggie Gyllenhaal (Jake's sister) gives a shrewd performance that never borders on the obvious, while Tom Arnold surprises with a subtle turn as the comparatively innocent Frank.

The DVD has an alternate commentary track with Roos, Kudrow and cinematographer Clark Mathis, as well as ten deleted scenes of varying quality and three scenes that constitute the lacking gag reel. During the final film's lengthy 128-minute running time, there are scenes that seem to drift with no reason and character motivations that go unexplained. Regardless, the film is definitely worth seeing.
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Nice Little Diversion
jmorris23612 November 2005
Having tremendously enjoyed Don Roos' previous effort, the Opposite of Sex, I snapped up Happy Endings upon release of the DVD without knowing anything about it. Many of my friends didn't like the Opposite of Sex; when I asked them why, each confessed a dislike of Lisa Kudrow. When I noticed she was also in the cast of Happy Endings, and in fact plays one of the main characters, I figured I'd better shut up about mentioning my latest acquisition to some of those friends until I had a chance to watch it. Watch it I did, and I have nothing but good things to report. Like the Opposite of Sex, Happy Endings revolves around several gay and straight characters, with enough attention paid to both, thus ensuring that the film could appeal to a mixed audience. There is where all similarities end. While Opposite of Sex had a relatively up-front and focused plot, Happy Endings manages to juggle several plots and subplots all at once. Each of the characters lives touch other characters lives in a style not unlike that of director Robert Altman. In fact, I kept thinking that the pacing and juggling of the subplots was somewhat similar to Short Cuts, or even Crash (in the way that Crash was also compared to Altman's style). Keeping everyone sorted out in my mind became something of a chore, but I generally like films that make you think and keep you on your toes. There were one or two surprises, including several totally unexpected plot twists, and that's always good too. As a comedy I didn't laugh so much as I smiled, and I asked myself more than once, "I wonder what will happen next". As the end credits were rolling I decided I enjoyed my visit with these people, and could easily have managed to sit though even more. How often do you hear that about a movie that runs over two hours?

The cast, which includes Tom Arnold, Jason Ritter and Jesse Bradford give even and professional performances throughout. It worked in a way that good ensemble pieces always work; that is, it would be difficult to single out any one member of the cast, as they worked off each other in such a way that no one could expect all the notices. Another good thing, in my book. I am definitely going to suggest to my friends that they give Don Roos another shot, Lisa Kudrow and all. I can certainly think of worse ways to spend a couple of hours.
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Already one of the most underrated films of the year
mrmatt146 July 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The early reviews on this are mixed, which is a shame. I saw it at an advance screening and thought it was one of the best films I've seen in a long time. The plot is complex, and it expects a lot from the audience.

The film starts as a very dark comedy. The audience reacts with a "This really shouldn't be funny, and I shouldn't be laughing at this." As the movie progresses and the false facades of the characters fall away and they're made to recognize the consequences of their actions, the tone of the film shifts and all of a sudden, those things aren't so funny any more.

The cast is phenomenal, and the film is phenomenally cast. Their chemistry seems authentic. The secret appears to be that so many of the actors are cast against type (Kudrow isn't the comic bimbo, Arnold's playing the most dramatic and heavy role in the film, Bradford isn't the pretty boy, etc.) On top of that, every one of them, at some point, sheds every scrap of dignity they have as actors to make their characters real. That's probably a credit to Roos's directing.

Not everybody is going to like this film, and that's probably OK. It's a pretty challenging work, and I can easily see a very polarized reaction to it. Those people who are willing to surrender to it will find that it is a phenomenal ride.
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A sly and seductive film about happiness
heyjoem-18 February 2006
I enjoyed Happy Endings more than any other film I've seen this year. I admit I had a difficult time following the convoluted plot and that the side title narration did not really help, but I found the film to be most rewarding. I am a big fan of The Opposite of Sex so I was anxious to see the results of what this writer/director would do with this same kind of material. I was not disappointed. In a way, Happy Endings reminded me of Sideways but was far more compelling. The performances were extraordinary especially Maggie Gylenhall and Tom Arnold who gives the performance of his life. The fact that he did not get nominated for an Oscar is staggering. This film is NOT FOR EVERYBODY but for those who appreciate intelligent and subtle film making
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"A more unbearable film than Gigli."
FrankRizzo19 August 2006
An unsuccessful attempt is made to tie all these loose threads together into one coherent story. Even more irritating than the film's third act triumphs is its lack of faith in moviegoers' intelligence. The surface smoothness can't make up for the deeper flaws...it fails signally in establishing any solid emotional connection with most of the people it portrays. Trouble is, every character is having problems in a homo-hetero-Angeleno world but they lacks substance, each little more than a composite of quirks and one-liners. Happy Endings is the kind of self-conscious puzzle picture in which characters behave in ways that serve the plot but in no way resemble things that actual human beings would be likely to do.
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Loved it
dmasursky21 July 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Movie critics must be watching some pretty fabulous stuff, because that's the only explanation I can imagine for the lukewarm reception they've given this film. I totally loved it. Wonderful acting by wonderful actors, portraying messy people living messy lives, with witty dialog as an added benefit. What's not too like? The general take I had heard before seeing the film myself was "not up to par" but I couldn't disagree more. I haven't seen anything as fun and entertaining and charming and fresh in a very long time. Ignore the critics and go see this movie.

I especially loved Lisa Kudrow, who is very talented, but also looking noticeably not glamorous -- I think she's very brave to look her age. She doesn't have to do it, and it really adds to her performance and to the film. Also a pleasant surprise (at least to me) is Maggie Gyllenhaal's lovely singing voice. Her rendition of Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are" was heartbreaking. There were many other memorable moments. This movie will be rattling around in my head for quite awhile.
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Good movie. A bit odd, but still good
alvamark9 August 2006
My wife rented this yesterday and we watched it last night. I'd never heard of it. After watching about 15 minutes of it, I thought "What in the world is this," because it was so frenetic. As written in the summary, there are several stories simultaneously being told, and it's kinda hard to keep everything straight. But, after awhile it starts to come together and you begin to pull for one or another of the characters.

I've never watched "Friends," so I haven't seen Lisa Kudrow much, but this was a good performance as a girl who alternates between spineless and fed up. I hadn't seen much of the rest of the cast before, so I can't comment. I also think it's interesting that Tom Arnold was first known for being married to Rosanne Barr, but it seems that lately he's gotten many various supporting roles, enough so that I find myself thinking: "Yeah, he was married to Rosanne whats-her-name?" Anyway, I liked this movie.

Yes, it's bizarre, quirky, odd, whatever you want to call it, but it ends well. It's one to watch. One more thing: it has many spots where there is a black sidebar with kind of "footnote" information. I found myself eventually pausing the DVD to read these things, because I didn't want to miss the music and a bit of action that might be taking place. I wish they would have just paused the movie at these points, and they were worthwhile explanations. Thumbs up!
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Life as a View from the Window of a Speeding Downtown Metro
gradyharp20 November 2005
Writer/director Don Loos has the corner on bizarre, wiggly, frustrating, veritas-infused glimpses at the absurdity of human 'communications/relationships' happening right now. His previous writings (some with direction credits) include 'The Opposite of Sex', 'Boys on the Side', 'Love Field', and 'Bounce', all of which explore the desperate need for regular people to find just a hint that their time on the planet makes a difference - at least in some small way despite their larger delusions. His characters are quirky, both bigger than life and pathetically dreary, and cross the lines of the expected borders of types: Roos is one of the few directors who consistently plays the 'minority groups' (gays, lesbians, African Americans, Hispanics, etc) as simply other characters on the playing field of life. And for that he deserves some respect from everyone.

HAPPY ENDINGS (suggestively referring to the ad promise found in masseur/masseuse in the Massage Available columns of magazines and some newspapers!) follows the lives of multiple characters whose rather insignificant existences intersect in random ways that produce ten 'stories', all interrelated. Topics on the table include abortion, gay relationships, homophobia, parental dysfunction/child dysfunction, emotional manipulation, blackmail, film-making, artificial insemination, failed dreams, and more. Sound like ingredients for a comedy? Well, no, but in Roos' funky hands these incipient tragic topics weave through tragic trails that result in dark comedy outcomes. And that is the fun of the film.

Yes, there are problems with the movie that others have pointed out well. The gimmick of sidebars explaining what the script doesn't attack, visible on the half screen with scene change action, begin as clever and end up as annoying: if the script can't carry the issues without footnotes then there is just too much information for the viewer to digest. What keeps this movie afloat are the performances by Maggie Gyllenhaal, Lisa Kudrow, Jess Bradford, Bobby Carnavale, Tom Arnold, Steve Coogan, Laura Dern, Sarah Clarke, Jason Ritter, David Sutcliffe and Amanda Foreman. This is a talented cast and at times we feel they are actually overcoming the plot's weaknesses with their strong imagery.

Every Roos film feels like a work in progress, but there are enough fine lines of creativity that promise us someday they will all gel into an exceptional film. This one is too long and too choppy and too difficult to follow with all the visual interruptions of sidebar words to be his best work. Grady Harp
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A guide to enjoying this movie...
cwhyel20 November 2005
This is worth renting. Not a classic but a distinct original with many commendable performances by a large cast of recognizable talent.

Now, keep in mind that this is a rambling soap opera crammed into roughly two hours. In order to keep pace, you'll need the following plan. First, get a nice cappuccino. Get your bathroom breaks out of the way, and put your phone on silent ring and maybe discourage visitors because if you blink or walk away from this for even a moment, you will miss something and it will be tantamount to the story.

This is very original though not too stylish. I don't know if everyone comes from this feeling better about the human condition or having enjoyed their time spent watching it but you need to be aware that this is an exercise in listening and paying attention, which will challenge many. If you fall into the category of "many," maybe this isn't for you.

If you like entertainment that takes you away from the formulaic layout and typical dialogue that you can see coming, this will not disappoint.

Enjoy and may you all have happy endings of your own-whatever they may be.
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A Cure to the Summer '05 Movie Blues
xandr0522 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
In a summer of a complete and utter cinematic disappointments, I was finally glad to see something that not only entertained, but allowed the audience to empathize with the characters, as well. Lisa Kudrow, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Jason Ritter shine in an impressive cast that effectively portrays a wide spectrum of emotions all in a darkly comic light. The soundtrack is light at times and melancholy at others, highlighted by Maggie Gyllenhaal's deep, sultry vocals that often reminded me of Nico from the Velvet Underground. If you're looking for instant laughs this is not the movie for you. Director Don Roos weaves a subtle sense of humor through the film, but never sacrifices the story for slapstick farce. That being said, the obsessive Charley (Steve Coogan) does set up some awkward and ridiculous situations for himself that do provide some laugh out loud moments. Roos intersects the three main subplots seamlessly and along the way gives us a satisfying film sure to cure some of the reservations we've begun to have about this summer's offerings. I highly recommend this movie, so go catch it before it slips away to the limbo between the theater and Blockbuster.
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Sad Mess
kenjha17 November 2009
Intertwining stories cover a group of characters, many of them gay, in Los Angeles. The characters are uninteresting and the script is a dreary bore. Kudrow is a limited actress who lacks the star presence to carry a film. The rest of the acting is not bad, with Arnold surprisingly effective as a rich man with a gay son. Roos wrote and directed but shows little aptitude for either task. The plot lines are ludicrous, especially the one about a gay couple and a lesbian couple arguing about whether the latter used the former's sperm. Most annoyingly, the screen is sporadically split in half and some random, trivial information is displayed about the characters.
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Too many unique vignettes causes overload on the "Happy Endings"
Movie_Muse_Reviews16 July 2009
Vignettes are a tricky business. To make a film with more than three main stories to follow that interconnect and are unified in some significant way is a challenge. "Love, Actually" is one of the only recent films to successfully pull this off, using Christmas and love as a unifying factor. Don Roos' "Happy Endings" uses ... love? happiness? sexuality? infatuation? It's not clear, and making all the vignettes cross-connect with each other doesn't satisfy what we look for in these movies. Each vignette should essentially tell the same message in a different way. "Happy Endings" has several original concepts, but the connection is obscure and hard to draw.

Roos ("The Opposite of Sex") essentially tells three stories: First follows Mamie (Lisa Kudrow) and the documentary she helps aspiring filmmaker Nicky (Jesse Bradford) make about her masseuse/lover Javier (Bobby Cannavale) so that she can find out information Nicky has of the son she gave away at birth when she was 18. The second follows the father of that child, Charlie (Steve Coogan), who is now gay and convinced that his partner (David Sutcliffe) is the biological father of their lesbian friends' son, whom he donated sperm to once and it supposedly didn't work. Last is Jude (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a free spirit who meets Otis (Jason Ritter), a young man that works in Charlie's restaurant who is hiding his homosexuality from his rich father (Tom Arnold). Jude promises Otis that she won't say anything if he doesn't spoil her plan to become involved with his father for the money.

That mostly covers the labyrinthian complexity of "Happy Endings," which despite it's courage to choose such unique scenarios , doesn't seem to ever make clear sense. It's all quite interesting, as this is relationship drama we've never seen before, but there are a lot of emotions flying around and motivations that seem to lack sources. It probably all made sense in Roos' head, but it doesn't convert.

The acting talent isn't necessarily lacking either. This is the best performance I've ever seen Kudrow give in a film -- she reminds me of another Annette Bening. Gyllenhaal is also one of the more complex (in the intriguing way) characters and she draws the widest variety of emotions from the audience as she crosses a fine line between sincerity and deception. Although the characters are interesting, however, we mostly feel just apathy because the snippets we get of them are more puzzling than revealing.

Another unique technique that Roos employs is adding subtitles that give away little pieces of information about the characters as we watch them, whether it's what happens in the future to them or a secret they have. It's supposed to add a unique twist to what's being shown on screen, but it's hard enough to make sense of what's going on on screen as it is. It's not a bad idea, but it just saturates this film even more.

Watching vignettes interconnect is always entertaining and interesting, but "Happy Endings" is overstuffed and it creates a disconnect between the characters and the audience, which no amount of character interconnectedness can solve.
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Keeps you guessing, never a dull moment
billgilman16 February 2005
"Happy Endings" is a very fun, very well made film that socks the air out of you in the first minute, and doesn't let up the tempo all the way through to the end. While the Sundance guide describes the film as "supremely self-conscious," it's really only in the very best way. We're coming to a place in American cinema where the cerebral ideas of film theory can now be brought to cineplexes, where intelligent yet entertaining films can find audiences that don't want to be talked down to, where cinematic language of shorthand, short cuts and elliptical description is being used to create a new rhythm of communication. No film in recent memory has used it's mastery of cinematic language to pack so much into a movie; with his three intertwined stories that each accelerate, hit the brakes and turn on a dime in balance with each other, Don Roos jumps to the head of the list of great American filmmakers that can make us think while making us laugh, cry, and really care about the people to whom he introduces us. In a cast of standouts, Lisa Kudrow and Tom Arnold really shine, and Maggie Gyllenhaal is so good it's kinda creepy. Jesse Bradford and Bobby Cannavale are perfect foils for each other in roles that are hard to make charming, and Laura Dern and Steve Coogan are, as always, sublime. Really, a film not to be missed.
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A great life story
baceanub16 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
That's why i gave this movie a ten - a great life story, no good or bad guys, no consistent plot line, nothing of that sort, not as i say a "Batman movie", where something that's not from this world is going on. It's just life as is it, a story that can and might happen in the life of a group of people... and this kind of movies is catching to the wide audience in the last couple of years. Really twisted i can't even start to summarize this movie because there's so much to say, the action is going on in two different directions that are somewhat connected... the first movie that comes to mind, a movie that i also loved, is Magnolia, with Tom Cruise, the entanglement, and the way that everything just comes together in the end... and more the way that the story was told besides the movie, being written, white on black... the story being way too full of small but very significant details the movie would have taken otherwise 6 hours, if not for the black on white commentaries. To put it short - a must see!
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Brilliant, wonderful, funny movie
RJGAUTH2311 April 2005
This film is about as original as films get! Brilliant, wonderful and very, very funny -- Don Roos is a genius. Roos used old silent movie title cards to add to both the story and the laughs -- this devise alone makes the film a must-see. The characters are real, touching and so very human you'll, as they say, "laugh, cry, and go back again and again". I had the extreme pleasure of seeing this film at a festival and I could not have enjoyed it more. At a time when the romantic-comedy seems to be dead, "Happy Endings" comes along and reaffirms your faith in the genre; causing one to beg for more films like this one. Go see this movie -- you'll love it!
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Is there life after Friends?
lamer7623 May 2006
Is there life after Friends? The only reason I watch movies starring one of the six main cast members of the show is the hope that some real talent lies there. Until now, I must have seen everything except talent. But in this film, Lisa Kudrow tops it all. I don't think I've ever had to endure such awkward acting, obvious even as she walks into a room without saying a single word. I'm not sure if she was just putting in too much effort trying not to look and sound like Phoebe or if Phoebe is simply the only character she can play. Either way, it was quite painful to watch.

The film is basically three loosely connected stories and for some unclear and baffling reason, it opens with a scene from the end as Mamie (Kudrow) is hit by a car. We are then reassured by the writers - through text that constantly and randomly appears on the screen in the middle of conversations - that she will not die because this movie is sort of a comedy. Flashback to 20 years ago, step-siblings Mamie and Charley (Coogan) have sex and Mamie gets pregnant. Flash-forward to now, Jesse (Bradford), a young documentary filmmaker, approaches Mamie with knowledge about her son that had she given up years ago. If she agrees his filming the encounter between mother and son, he will lead her to him. He needs this to get into film school. She refuses, and in a scene lifted from an 80s sitcom, offers him another story instead: Javier (Cannavale), an illegal immigrant turned sex worker. Javier is actually Mamie's boyfriend, a masseur who seems to give out happy endings to some of his female clients.

Story number two is about Charley, who now runs a restaurant and is actually gay. His lover, Gil (Sutcliffe), had given his sperm to their lesbian friends Pam (Dern) and Diane (Clarke) because they wanted a baby. According to Pam and Diane, they didn't use his sperm but in fact resorted to another source to get impregnated. Charley is almost certain that the couple is lying because they don't want to share their child with them.

In the third story, freeloader Jude (Gyllenhaal) buddies up to Otis (Ritter) because she found out his dad is filthy rich. Since Otis is gay (and in love with Charley), Jude finds her way into the dad's arms (Arnold), with whom she unwillingly and unexpectedly falls in love.

Kudrow's pathetic performance aside, the movie was simply pointless. I don't believe that stuffing the cast with gays and lesbians gives any more dimension to a badly written, badly performed, non-sensical script. I seriously couldn't have cared less about any of the characters, whether Mamie would find her son, or if Gil is the biological father of the baby, or if things will work out for Jude. Give this one a miss for sure.
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Doesn't really work
rwtmoore26 February 2011
Happy Endings There was attempt to do something original here, unfortunately, the experiment failed. It's more of a graphic novel with moving pictures than it is a film. We're spoodfed ridiculous amounts of exposition via placards that pop up on the side of the screen like fun bubble facts from a video. And what makes it worse is that it's not an objective, ominipotent narration, but a narration that's written in the spoken vernacular with a definite point of view. If it has a definite point of view, who's writing it? Some mysterious omnipotent subjective narrator that we never meet. And we know it's not God, because of the lame attempts at being clever and funny. And just when you think it can't get worse, the fun facts tell us things in the distant past, the distant future, the characters' thoughts, and even what's going on with the bodily functions of some of the characters. Oh man. The story lines aren't very good either. I could not see Mamie going along with the extortion and the other shanigans that goes on after. I just couldn't suspend my disbelief. Most of the dialog was confusing, implausible or just lame. For example, Lane tells Jude, "I still don't see the problem. In a month, you tell the old guy it's his... and then when you deliver, it's like this really big preemie... that just happens to look like both of them. We're not reinenting the wheel here." Yeah, it's the old have sex with the son, have sex with the father and you don't know who got you pregnant. We all know that routine, right? Who hasn't been down that road? It's so ridiculous. The storyline with the lesbians and male gay couple is not much better. It's way too purposely convoluted. It's like the filmmakers are digging to find ways to unnecessarily complicate the storyline. And then there's the hallmark of trendy and lazy filmmakers - the corny montages set to trendy pop music to tell us how to feel. And the split screen thing seemed like it was only there to show that they could do it. And why was Mamie running willy-nilly at the end? When I heard the title, it made me think of that hackneyed joke about massages and I thought the filmmakers were above referencing a stupid, overplayed joke like that. But, sure enough, that's what they were doing. It reminds me of "Coyote Ugly", another waste of film. Virtually every actor in this film is great, but they can't save a script this absurd. It's just so much schlop.
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Friendships, secrets and lies; multi-chaptered comedy-drama with some standout performances...
moonspinner5514 April 2008
Don Roos wrote and directed this lively, sometimes poignant, but not especially funny comedy-drama centering around an abortion counselor's secret that she had given birth to her step-brother's baby when she was a teenager and quickly gave it up for adoption. In this role, Lisa Kudrow really excels with the writer-director's dryly observant style: she's loose but not flailing, inquisitive but not harping, apprehensive but not frightened. Kudrow (whose comic timing reminds one of Roseanne's in the early years of her TV sitcom) mixes a look of anxiety, despair, nervousness and anticipation with astonishing skill--even when her character is humiliated (or humiliates herself), Kudrow has a way of keeping all the flightiness grounded in some form of reality. Matching her, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Tom Arnold have some wonderful early scenes; she's a born user and a killer karaoke singer, while he plays the father of the gay 21-year-old drummer whom Gyllenhaal has already seduced and discarded. It's too bad we don't get more of this relationship, and also unfortunate that Roos covers up most of their dialogue with soundtrack music (it's a coupling which happens in montage). Roos plants little subtitles throughout the movie to help sort out who's-who, and this works to some degree (yet it's a relief when the device is momentarily given a rest). Some of the other story threads are dim (a couple of which center on gay men turning their homosexuality on and off like a light-switch), but Kudrow's work and Tom Arnold's natural, easy-going presence keep the film absorbing and often appealing. And nobody sings "Just the Way You Are" like Gyllenhaal. **1/2 from ****
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Totally Delightful
felixoscar30 July 2005
Just what is it with the public, and even the more discerning critics? This makes three art house films in a row that have been even better than I expected: Heights, Mysterious Skin and now the contemporary multiple story-themed Happy Endings. While I never thought these would break the $ 50 million mark, come on, all are truly superior story telling. Like the other two, Happy Endinds is involving, well-written and cost what, less than one-tenth of what puerile nonsense like The Longest Yard and The Island demand?

All three have gay characters, another link. All are modern stories. And all are brought to life by naturalistic, fine performances.

Lisa Kudrow leads a sterling cast, with several name performers who seemed eager to appear even in smaller roles; Someone I hardly know, Jesse Bradford, appears in two of the three films, with talent far beyond what was exhibited in more commercial work.

I could have watched another hour of this group of interlocking stories. As a fan of Altman's Short Cuts, there are indeed parallels here, but why would this "Endings" be considered so inferior? So prepared for talk, sit down and enjoy yourself, I sure as hell know that this one brought lots of pleasure to me.
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this movie was the worst piece of contrived @#$% i've seen...
fecal_astro16 November 2005
i might say as a precursor that i dislike episodic pieces...but this movie really takes the cake of awful...we move from one character to the next with idiotic contrivances that are motivated by little more than the directors fancy...the intertitles are juvenile at best and while initially I thought them an interesting tactic are overused to the point when introducing gil and charlie says they "have been together for five years and will never have a three way" it was like watching a bad script and reading it at the same time...the only redeeming character was maggie gyllenhall as jude...i could of watched a whole movie about her...although in this one we never know where she is coming from or why? but hey who cares about that stuff.. the only person we have back story on is mamie and charlie and if the film followed them it could have been its saving grace but no we are supposed to care and follow a series of other characters that we have no knowledge of or connection to...i'm not sure how long the movie was, but it felt well over two hours the movie could have been cut down to about zero minutes and it would save a lot of people a horrible waste of time...sorry about the bad grammar the film really had me peeved
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jotix1005 August 2005
"Happy Endings" is a beautifully crafted film by director Don Roos. He is working with his own material in this multilinear tale of loneliness and regrets taking place in L.A., but that one can see happening anywhere in the world. Mr. Roos returns to the screen with this ensemble piece where he has gathered a talented cast to portrait the lives of the people one meets in the picture. The director is blessed to have worked with J. Clark Mathis, a great cinematographer, who puts everything in perspective for us to watch.

Even though the film was meant to be played with many actors without a single one dominating, it's clear that Mamie (Lisa Kudrow) and Jude (Maggie Gyllenhaal) are the most interesting characters in the film. Although Mamie and Jude don't get to meet one another until almost the end, we can see how their lives resemble one another. In fact, most of the characters in the film seem to be lonely, even though they are supposed to be in relationships that on one level shows some semblance of happiness, but in reality they are alone.

The first sequence in the film, when Mamie is the victim of a car accident, we expect the worst, but never fear, Mr. Roos cleverly offers us his thoughts in the subtitles to the side of the screen. He reminds his audience the film is a comedy and no one will die in it. Some comments here have been negative about that director's ploy, but in reality, they seem to clarify some situations.

Mr. Roos gets excellent performances from his cast. Lisa Kudrow, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Steve Coogan, Jesse Bradford, Tom Arnold, Bobby Cannavale, Jason Ritter, and the rest, respond well to the director's command. The result is a satisfying movie with a great texture.

One of the great achievements of Mr. Roos is the way he moves from one situation to the next without any effort. The story with all its many situations never loses our attention.
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Could have been better
rkalla7 February 2006
When a movie resorts to sidebars to explain the plot, especially as much as this one does, it implies that the writer has gotten lazy with his story development. A well-written movie could tie things together without the self-consciously cute little blurbs. I mean, the blurbs even tell the viewer right up front that this is a comedy -- in case you were wondering??? The saving grace is the acting. Tom Arnold, Lisa Kudrow and Maggie Gyllenhaal give great performances and really make their characters three dimensional. And each story unto itself is pretty interesting. The gay couple story was a bit trite and clichéd as far as the depiction of homosexual couples, but was still serviceable and interesting. I guess if I were to fix the story I would have strengthened the bonds between plot lines or I would have separated them completely. The tie-in between Otis and Mamie's stories was tenuous and tacked on. It's as though the writer were cheating a bit. Here we have some great stories and duologue. The acting is very good. But the writer didn't spend the extra time it would have taken to really craft the story into a cohesive whole, rather than resorting to the whole "indie" flick dodge of incomplete, fragmented storytelling passing as "art."
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Dynamite: Fiercely Smart and Funny
mohanan18 July 2005
The only reason I'm not giving the full ten stars is that a couple of plot point moments seemed to go by too fast, but it's just as possible that I was too slow for them. This hilarious and shrewdly observed comedy with at least a dozen lines worthy of immediate classic status ("Nothing says I love you like blackmail") , and a greater multitude of sly subtle laughs demands a smart viewer to follow some of the breathless but always plausible twists of fate and human perversity. I loved The Opposite of Sex and this one takes Dan Roos to an even higher plateau. There is so much compassion and understanding and good-heartedness amid all the comedy that a Zen master might have made it. The title cards that glide in and out are like witty little footnotes that wink at the omniscience of Victorian fiction while conveying the same degree of illuminating digression. And the ensemble acting is a joy, equal to Crash. Preston Sturges would have treated sex like this had he flourished in the Nervous Naughts. I think this movie may be a harbinger of the Terrific Teens.
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emdoub18 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I got this movie, looking for what it was advertised as - a dark comedy. It had its dark moments, but it got more winces than chuckles, and no laughs at all. This is much more a drama, if a drama of the absurd. The sidebar text bits actually worked pretty well, and provided almost all of the humor that the script offered.

The acting was, indeed, well-done - which leads me to assume that there was some good direction happening as well. The primary failing here was the story.

Plot synopsis: People do silly, destructive things to each other. People make bad choices. People hurt each other. Abortion is hurtful, and giving a child up for adoption can be pretty crazy-making, too. Ain't life funny? All in all, not a painful movie, but certainly not the comedy I'd expected. It does have the feel of a sitcom or soap opera - if you like watching those, you may well like this more than I did.
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A Refreshing, Enjoyable, Different Movie
daniel_198523 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I have to say that I really enjoyed this movie. I t is a fantastic storyline and how the story comes together is just fantastic. Lisa Kudrow shines as a dramatic actress as I have never seen her before. Her performance was very different than that I am used to off her but she done a brilliant job and I would have to say without her talent and amazing grace that she brings to the movie I'm not sure it would have been as good. The film is just so very different to anything I have seen and it was refreshing to watch the story unwind. The story is not predictable at all and all I can say is you have to see this movie. The cast is fantastic and the acting superb.
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