Film Review: The Happiest Girl in the World

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Berlin International Film Festival --  Forum
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BERLIN -- "The Happiest Girl in the World" works the well-worn territory of the Corneliu Porumboiu's worldwide festival hit "12:08 East of Bucharest," but much less successfully. Drenched in the de rigueur ironies of contemporary Romanian cinema, it simply isn't as funny as the earlier film and the satire isn't nearly as biting.

Given the fact that the film also faithfully employs a demanding long-take aesthetic short on meaningful payoffs, commercial prospects seem thin. Nevertheless, festival programrs looking for something to fill the by now mandatory Romanian slot might give it a look.

Delia (Bosneag, in her first performance) has won a publicity contest for a popular soft drink and is awarded an expensive new car. To claim her prize, however, she and her selfish small-town parents have to go to Bucharest where she is to shoot a commercial touting the soft drink as she sits in her new car with a big bow tied around it. Predictably, take after take goes haywire for one reason or another and then the "The Happiest Girl in the World" ends.

The biggest problem is that Delia is having a difficult time looking as deliriously happy as the sponsors want her to look, because her conniving parents are simultaneously trying to chisel her out of the new car through the administration of huge helpings of familial guilt. The sponsors also want her to drink copious amounts of their beverage, which leads to multiple trips to the bathroom. In any case, it soon becomes clear that the self-reflexive aspects of this satire on the media are more fascinating to the director than they will be to any paying audience.

Interspersed between the multiple takes, which quickly begin to wear on the viewer as much as they do on Delia, the crew stands around and tells dirty jokes that are undoubtedly hilarious in the original Romanian. Delia's father also gets a big kick out of verbally abusing her mother. Otherwise, we are subjected to long passages of the dialogue of ordinary life punctuated, all too infrequently, by some new outrage perpetrated on Delia by the film crew that is never more than mildly funny.

Director Jude obviously has larger themes on his mind -- perhaps something involving the concupiscence of human beings, especially under roaring capitalism, or even better, the very meaning of happiness itself -- but a plethora of dialogue-less long takes of the brooding Delia don't do much to actually bring them home to his audience.

Production: HiFilm, Circe Films
Cast: Andreea Bosneag, Vasile Muraru, Violeta Haret Popa
Director: Radu Jude
Screenwriter: Augustina Stanciu
Producer: Ada Solomon
Director of photography: Marius Panduru
Editor: Catalin Cristutiu
Sales: Films Boutique
No rating, 100 minutes
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