Film Rec: Happy-Go-Lucky (2008)

1st: Happy New Year. 2nd: Wow, I almost forgot about posting today. 3rd: Did anyone else catch whoever was hosting the New Year's countdown on MTV not know how to count backwards from 10? Brilliant. Switched back to Cooper/Griffen for the rest after "9...10...9...7..." Film Rec: Happy-Go-Lucky (2008) The writing process can be an interesting thing. Perhaps the most unique approach to continually receive recognition is Mike Leigh's. He develops the project around the actors he has working, allowing improvisation and experimentation to define where the film will go. He might have a basic premise in mind (like Vera Drake), but not always that defined. Happy-Go-Lucky is a wonderful comedy film that people will have problems with because nothing happens. That's a gross over-simplification, but its the second most common complaint I see lobbied about. The most common? The lead character is so annoying there can be no merit in what Sally Hawkins or Mike Leigh accomplished. Such short sighted views are discouraging. There's the obvious reaction that they just don't get the film, but that's not fair. It's clear the people making these complaints actually understood what happened. It's just Happy-Go-Lucky falls into a nebulous region between character study and indie film styles that causes confusion. To elucidate: Poppy is impossibly optimistic. Bicycle stolen? Must be a good day for a walk. Tanked off her ass? At least she's having a good time. Horrendous hangover? At least she had fun the night before. Poppy also never learned to drive, and finally decides to get her permit and take driving lessons with her polar opposite: Scott, a pessimist. They clash during the lessons, but nothing comes of it. Poppy is too kind and friendly to address the issues, and Scott is too cruel not to mock Poppy's attitude. Throughout the film, Poppy is placed in quirky situations that let Hawkins shine. Flamenco dancing (conflict of angry passion and light happiness) and trampolining are just the tip of the iceberg. Some have gone so far as to compare this to Amelie, but that's a horrible misconception. Amelie is romantic and fanciful; Happy-Go-Lucky just is. The shifts in character perspective and plot development are very subtle, though they do exist. As Poppy interacts with more people, her true character becomes clearer. The viewer is meant to be put off by her at first because she comes across as a space cadet. She's clearly not normal and she certainly can't be insightful. How much she changes relies on individual interpretation. I think she's a completely different person by the end, though others disagree. Happy-Go-Lucky is absolutely worth a watch to see Mike Leigh once again present a slice of life outside the norm. Everything and nothing is different from what we experience on a daily basis. We wake up, we go to work, we run our errands, we come home, and we go to bed. So does Poppy. It's just her errands might include a flirtatious trip to the chiropractor or a pun filled study session for a driving test. It's hilarious and feels real. That is the achievement of this film.