Monday, November 10, 2008

Lucky to be Happy


In Happy-G0-Lucky, Poppy is an irrepressibly free-spirited school teacher who brings an infectious laugh and an unsinkable sense of optimism to every situation she encounters as a single woman in London. When Poppy’s commuter bike is stolen, she signs up for driving lessons with Scott (Eddie Marsan), who turns out to be her polar opposite – a fuming, uptight cynic who takes himself extremely seriously. As the tension of their weekly lessons builds, Poppy’s story takes alternately hilarious and serious turns -- careening from flamenco classes to first dates--becoming a touching, truthful and deeply life-affirming exploration of one of the most mysterious and often the most elusive of all human emotions: happiness.


Sally Hawkins shines as the lead, Poppy, in one of the best performances of the year, a seemingly naive extrovert with a very expressive and optimistic attitude towards life and all her hardships. She laughs at unfortunate events that she "suffers", such as getting her bicycle - her form of personal transport, of which she enjoys to wave at people whilst riding - stolen, as if it were a cruel irony and she gets the joke. This upbeat spirit is rarely broken, even if the polar opposite of attitudes comes into contact with her unless taken to the absolute limit. She is an inviting figure, one that which desires to inspire her mood and thoughts on life. In doing so, she becomes a primary teacher, when the mind is at it's spongiest. There is a scene where she experiments creativity with her long term roommate Zoe (Alexis Zegerman) in the form of cardboard boxes and more materials to make a bird-like costume. Poppy is the definitive authority figure in the film. To match her personality is the excessive clothes with often delicate unnecessary items just to provide bright colours in the darkest of hues in the scenes. This brightness transcends her performance and makes her my absolute favourite leading performance of the year. The most expressive supporting performance comes from Eddie Marsan, as Scott, Poppy's driving instructor. However, his character is the opposite to Poppy's, always agitated and enraged when flaws occur. His character does not mix with her at all. The driving scenes are the utmost emotionally engaging scenes in the entire film and form the structure of routine giving a basis and understanding of the time frame therefore the development the characters go about in their relationships with each other - especially since they meet during his last shift so he wants to escape the working mode and enter the more relaxing mode of no responsibility. Scott constantly misinterprets Poppy's actions, as if she's sexually teasing him for her pleasure or patronizing his behaviour. During their rather short journeys of stopping, starting, arguing, repeating explanations - the tension really builds up. Every time Scott's rage is starting to show Poppy strikes him down with a joke to calm him; or maybe herself. I won’t tell you where the situation with Scott goes, but it’s probably not anywhere you’d expect. He is, though, the perfect would-be foil for Poppy... were she foilable. Everything makes her laugh, even pain, and it seems she is constitutionally incapable of not trying to spread her joy. And the longer she endures in that -- not that she’s “enduring”; she’s not faking it and not putting it on -- the more real it starts to become for us. Happy-Go-Lucky had the power to make a grin evolve across my face then wipe it straight off again within the same shot. Her comfort is very limited and only appears again with the most prominent support of Zoe (a wonderfully sarcastic performance which is an absolute joy to see every time) - even more so than her family that do appear not necessarily in an agreeable situation. There is also a rather striking and bleak scene in which Poppy encounters a tramp (played by Stanley Townsend) where he confronts her in a strange gibberish without a seeming understanding of his correct surroundings. This hobo is a symbolism of freedom, of complete and utter creativity with his language and imagination. When Poppy is presented with this person she is in a state of confusion as what to do. Poppy is the ultimate expression of the dictum that life is what you make it: you can be happy, or you can be angry, but it’s not going to change a damn thing, except how much fun you have along the way. And particularly considering the dismal state of the world today, that’s a wonderful possibility to consider as you’re walking out of the theater. A happy 5 on my "Go See" scale. Go and see this movie!

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