Happy Endings

Don Roos' overlapping stories of Los Angelenos blindsided by love add up to a bleakly funny and sneakily moving examination of mistakes made and their unexpected, far-reaching consequences. When patient-advocate Mamie (Lisa Kudrow) was 17, she seduced her new stepbrother, Charley (Steve Coogan), and later gave up their baby for adoption. Two decades later,...read more

Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
Rating:

Don Roos' overlapping stories of Los Angelenos blindsided by love add up to a bleakly funny and sneakily moving examination of mistakes made and their unexpected, far-reaching consequences. When patient-advocate Mamie (Lisa Kudrow) was 17, she seduced her new stepbrother, Charley (Steve Coogan), and later gave up their baby for adoption. Two decades later, aspiring filmmaker Nicky (Jesse Bradford), desperate to score an AFI scholarship, contacts her claiming to know where her son is; he'll tell her if she'll let him make a documentary about their reunion. Mamie's boyfriend, Javier (Bobby Cannavale), a professional masseur, makes a counteroffer: the information for the chance to document Javier's life as a specialist in massages with "happy endings" for wealthy, unsatisfied housewives. Charley, who runs the last remaining restaurant of the chain he and Mamie inherited after their parents' death in a car crash, lives with Gil (David Sutcliffe), his boyfriend of five years, and is about to stir up a baby drama of his own. Two years earlier, Gil donated sperm to help his longtime best friend, Pam (Laura Dern), and her girlfriend, Diane (Sarah Clarke), conceive a child. Pam and Diane said the donation didn't take, and turned to a sperm bank instead. But their 2-year-old son looks exactly like Gil at that age, and Charley is convinced that Pam and Diane, who have an abrasive controlling streak, lied so Gil would never be able to assert parental rights. Determined to make them admit the truth, he concocts a sitcom-worthy scheme that triggers a decidedly unfunny chain of events. Meanwhile, rootless, casually opportunistic singer Jude (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who's drifting through life on impulse and attitude, meets sexually confused rich boy Otis (Jason Ritter) at Charley's restaurant on karaoke night. She impulsively agrees to join his band, seduces Otis and sets her sights on his wealthy widowed father, Frank (Tom Arnold), coercing Otis' cooperation by manipulating his fear that Frank thinks he's gay. By the time the games have ended, a small army of skeletons has come clattering out of various closets, demanding that attention be paid. Roos underscores the film's fablelike nature through intertitles that reveal hidden truths and peek at future developments that take place years — even decades — after the film ends. But the stylization never compromises the emotional truth that underlies the baroque dilemmas, and Roos' sly, throwaway insights into the ways people deceive and undermine themselves are both ruefully funny and painfully on the mark.

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