Another Happy Day

Relatives circling around the table may evoke a time of  love for some but for other families it represents a struggle to make it through the meal.  The more than dysfunctional family of Another Happy Day gather in suburban Maryland for what should be a blissful marriage.  The mother of the groom, Lynn (Ellen Barkin) loathes the upcoming nuptials because it calls for a family reunion.  The ailing health of her father,  the return of her ex husband and his new wife along with the torment of her children have Lynn already halfway in tears.  Another Happy Day is ingeniously released around the time that our own family unite for the holiday season.

It seems that no one in this family is unscathed from hardship. Having divorced Paul (Thomas Hayden Church) and splitting up their two children, Lynn has watched silently as two of her children self destruct.  Prior to the wedding, Lynn meets with Paul, through a therapist, revealing the pain their divorce caused the family.  Having been most affected by the divorce, their oldest daughter Alice (Kate Bosworth) has a history self harms. Lynn worries that the reunion may cause another scene as it will be the first extended amount of time she will spend with her father.  Alice and Paul’s first encounter at the rehearsal is fraught with awkwardness and long pauses.  Unsure what to say to each other, the moment resonates with those who have estranged kin.  It serves as a reminder of the damage families can do to one another and how it is to earn that respect back.Lynn’s other son, Elliot (Ezra Miller) is the talk of the family.  After completing four stints in rehab he still has jaunts into drug abuse.  Praying on the illness of his grandfather, he creeps into his bedroom to steal his medicine before drifting into a drug fueled haze.  Elliot’s and Alice share a common bond over their problems. They seem to commiserate over pain and the mutual chaos that the wedding becomes.  Amidst their deep turmoil it seems their relationship is the most sincere and healthy of this family.Elliot’s antics are on the wine soaked lips of Lynn’s mother, Doris (Ellen Burstyn) and two sisters.  These three are the step mother and evil step sisters from Cinderella.  The sisters even have a cackle that shivers your spine. Besides being downright rude, Doris blames Lynn for the current family predicament. In one of their tear laced scenes,  Lynn proclaims despite the abuse she received from Paul, her mother and family favored him. Taking his side in the divorce.  The emotionally altering scene serves as culmination of many of the actors performance.  Burstyn’s evil witch starts to crumble, as Barkin’s tearful lament continues its spiral.I could continue and talk about the relationship between each character is immense detail.  The screenplay provide a fullness to each story lines and character as well as their inter-character dynamics.  Each character had a unique relationship with the character across from them proving to be an enjoyable watch. I haven’t scene a film with such intricacy in a while.  The one problem I did have was that I was unaware of the characters names.  Halfway through the film, I struggled to name the character on screen by anything other then the actors name, which may have been the result of the well known faces.

As I was lucky enough to see this film with a Q & A with director Sam Levinson and Ellen Barkin, I was able to hear their thoughts on the film.  What I most enjoyed about their talk was Sam Levinson’s opinion on children.  As the son of a high powered Hollywood producer, this was Levinson’s directorial debut.   He mentioned that he did not want to have children because of the damage parents can inflict on their children.  This was interesting because the screenplay he penned includes multiple characters who were utterly broken because of missteps in parenting.  While I hope this was pure fiction, it may give us a glimpse at his personal story.

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