'Get Happy!': Montreal Review

Courtesy of Montreal Film Festival
A thinly dramatized argument about the utility of rose-colored glasses.

From loser to self-help guru.

The power of positive thinking is nothing to trifle with in Get Happy!, a fable about a Gloomy Gus who turns frowns upside down just when he has the best reason to mope. Showing signs of being a fiction borne of personal experience, Manoj Annadurai's debut plays like a Big Idea student film in which believable action is a secondary or tertiary concern after statement-making. Regional fest auds may well be supportive, but the pic's uneasy blend of earnestness and cynicism won't carry it far beyond.

Chris Riggi plays Charlie, a New Yorker who can't even buy a donut from a sidewalk stand without something going wrong. He's flubbing what should be a great first date (set up by his friends) when his night is hijacked by Holly (Lauren Sweetser), the kind of annoyingly uninhibited character screenwriters invent when they need to inject whimsy into a boring man's life. They're an instant couple, and Charlie's buddies see his smile for the first time in years, but it can't last: Just as she's on the brink of using up every "your life is yours for the choosing" platitude she knows, Holly is run over by a bus.

Charlie copes by denying his grief, insisting that Holly's steamroller-like optimism will not only guide his life but be a beacon for others beyond the grave. He pens Get Happy!, a Pollyannaish self-help book that makes him a celebrity overnight.

Charlie gets that book published because his best pal Bobby (Adam LaVorgna) is an editor, and throughout the film we hear Bobby grouse wearily about the cliches of fiction in ways that surely must be intended as reflexive commentary. He's dismissing one manuscript as "a contemptible piece of whimsy called Dream Lover" immediately after Charlie meets his own dreamgirl; later he complains about a tale that's "no deeper than your average romantic comedy." Screenwriter Tom Shipley is trying to set up a paper-thin romance with one hand and tear it down with the other, it seems, but has nothing to erect in its place aside from an unconvincing battle between denial and acceptance of life's misfortunes.

Sometimes sickly, too-tightly-framed photography makes the least of NYC locations here, while chirpy, on-the-nose songs narrate action we have zero trouble following. Subplots are even less plausible than the main event, with one suggesting that a PR firm could get in legal trouble over not spreading the word about facts that run counter to its argument.

 

Production company: Monomyth Enchantment

Cast: Chris Riggi, Adam LaVorgna, Rebecca Blumhagen, Jordan Lane Price, Lauren Sweetser

Director: Manoj Annadurai

Screenwriter: Tom Shipley

Producer: Sania Jhankar

Director of photography: Eric Giovon

Production designer: Valeria De Felice

Editor: Matt O’Brien

Music: Allison Tartalia

Casting director: Adrienne Stern

 

No rating, 99 minutes

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