Happiness (1998)

3 Stars

Happiness (1998)

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After a disastrous first date, Joy Jordan (Jane Adams) finds her luck with men running out. Her dead end job and lack of a love life is consistently under scrutiny from her sisters, Helen (Lara Flynn Boyle) and Trish (Cynthia Stevenson).

Their lives aren't much better though as Helen finds herself the subject of a creepy telephone call from her neighbour, Allen (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Allen meanwhile is the subject of another neighbour's affections.

Trish lives a standard housewife's life with her two children and doting husband, Bill (Dylan Baker). Bill, though, fantasises about killing people and has an unnatural fascination with his 11-year-old son's friend.

If that wasn't bad enough, the sisters' parents are going through a messy breakup.


"Have you got a good film for tonight?" is a question that is often asked to me on forlorn weekday evenings. Quite often I reply "Yes!" before bounding off upstairs like a gazelle, high on life, to pick off the next film from the 5-star list. Other times I'll umm and err, knowing it's a foreign film or something that will be difficult to watch.

Many of the comedies on the list I've struggled to understand because they are what I like to class as awkward comedies, and generally leave the audience feeling uncomfortable. With its strong adult themes (thankfully never graphic) and unrelenting storyline, Happiness fits perfectly into this category.

Within 10 minutes, the film had lost the attention of my family. In their defence, an awkward dinner scene, swiftly followed by an awkward elevator scene is probably enough to ward off most people. Despite this, it was still compelling and I never once felt like reaching for the off switch.

In parts, the film was raucously funny. One scene saw a man daydream about killing people to the background of delicately uplifting music counterbalancing the shots from his rifle. Looking back, very funny. At the time, slightly disturbing.

In fact, I think that's what makes Happiness what it is. There are many scenes now that I look back on and talk about with my friends and we could wet ourselves with laughter. They tell me they would find the film hilarious, but I just wouldn't recommend it to them. Maybe I'm being snobbish, but they wouldn't stick it.

Try to find Happiness, if you can.

Review by on . Film Rating: 3/5