Old Indie Theatre: “Another Happy Day”

ahdI like watching movies, especially obscure little indie movies that almost no one’s heard of or, at least, that I haven’t heard of. Recently I watched “Another Happy Day” (2011) a dark comedy starring Ellen Barkin, Ellen Burstyn, Thomas Haden Church, Demi Moore, Kate Bosworth, George Kennedy, and, one of my favorite good-bad guy actors, Ezra Miller. The film is written and directed by Sam Levinson who won the 2011 Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at the Sundance Film Festival for this film. I chose this movie strictly based on a great cast, only knowing it was about a large family getting together for a wedding. Ha! It was far from a simple family dramady.

The story is about a family week-end in Annapolis where the estranged son of mom Lynn (Barkin) is getting married at the estate of the Grandparents (Burstyn and Kennedy). Lynn arrives with her two sons in tow, a 17-year old who is a volatile, wise-ass druggie who’s just come home from his 5th rehab stay (Miller) and a 13 year old who has (a little bit of) Asperger’s. A daughter (Bosworth), a cutter, joins the family later. Lynn’s two sisters, their husbands and kids are already there and immediately you sense the hostility and derision they have for Lynn and her kids and you see this throughout most of the movie.  Lynn has hopes for a happy reunion with her betrothed son whom she has seen very little over the years because he lives with her first husband and his wife Patty (Moore), an aggressive, aging trophy wife and (allegedly) ex-stripper.

If you think you have a crazy, dysfunctional family you really should watch this film. This is the most f-bombed up family I’ve ever seen and it made me feel ecstatic that mine is so tame! Lest you think this film sounds depressing it actually isn’t. These characters are multi-layered, complicated, issue-driven and tragically comical, at times.AnotherHappyDay_2 Miller’s portrayal of the cynical druggie son vacillates between chuckle-inducing smart-ass juvenile humor and plain old selfish meanness that makes you want to slap the shit out of him. Demi Moore’s portrayal of second wife Patty is the typical middle-ageing beauty who wants everyone to think she’s still hot but she is one cray-cray drama queen who appears to have everyone fooled. I looked everywhere to find a photo of her in her black step-mom-of-the-groom dress with a huge  white ruffle down the back that looks like a dragon tail but this is the best I could find. (See the trailer below!)another-happy-day_404930_10498 The dynamics between her and Lynn could be a hit “reality” TV show.

The people in this family have so many layers of issues and craziness that they could fill their own DSM. Not a moment of this film is boring and I think you will find yourself, like me, exclaiming over and over “this family is so effed up!” The acting is superb, especially Barkin whose every emotion plays across her face like a symphony.

I could write so, so much about this movie but I won’t because I want you to watch it yourself. It’s a  movie about love, hate, heartbreak, life, death, teenage problems, mental and emotional disorders, marriages, and of course, family. It’s a great story with great actors and great dialog. What more could you want?

 

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Amy Winehouse in the black for real this time

Amy Winehouse died today, and you can read all about it on the righteous Huffington Post obituary that reminds us her demise was just a “slo-mo car crash.”

Her death is not altogether shocking, but it is disturbing nonetheless.

In a sense, her artistic marketability stemmed from a bad-girlification of 1960s soul music.  She was a skinny, tatted-up tough girl from working-class London, with big hair and a voice to match.  Her struggles with (or seeming acceptance of) drug addiction only enhanced her reputation as a true entertainer, one with moxie, attitude, and presence.

Fans relished her bad behavior, cheering lyrics like “You love blow and I love puff” (Back to Black”) and “I told you I was trouble / You know that I’m no good” (“You Know That I’m No Good”).  Her refusal to go to rehab was celebrated in a Grammy-winning song (“Rehab”), in which Winehouse admits to suffering from addiction and depression.

This glorification of mental illness and self-destructive behavior sends mixed messages to those who also struggle with these issues.  Winehouse’s drug use was not only acceptable but legitimized by her celebrity status.  This was a double validation:  Her drug use fed into her being perceived as a rock star, and her being a rock star forgave her drug use.  And now she’s dead, and no one’s surprised.

So what does it take to remove the idolatry from substance abuse?  The wasted talents of Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, and many others including Amy Winehouse now, have all developed into a tragic mythos of “forever young,” without acknowledgement of what really ripped these creative beings from our midst.  The real scourge is untreated illness, the exaltation of which prevents honesty, recovery, and true grit from being communicated to a public sold on the dangerous cheapness of entertainment.