Saturday, November 6, 2010

On-Demand: With HAPPY EVER AFTERS Stephen Burke tackles two odd weddings

Sally Hawkins is an unusual actress in that she seems not to mind allowing herself to look pretty awful much of the time. No raving beauty, she can still be quite attractive, though we get only glimpses of this in films such as Happy Go Lucky, in which she created her biggest stir so far. Just recently she's been seen in Never Let Me Go, playing the teacher who gives her strange pupils their first dose of "reality," and she'll soon cause another stir in Made in Dagenham, playing the leader of the protest that eventually gave British women the right to equal pay. Folk who are fans of Ms Hawkins (TM counts himself as one such) can catch her these days on VOD in a middling rom-com featuring the ever-popular wedding theme -- times two.

HAPPY EVER AFTERS, the semi-new Irish film from writer/director Stephen Burke, was given its first theatrical release in France in 2009 (hence the poster, above) and has the not-bad idea of conflating two weddings: that of Ms Hawkins character to a strapping and sophisticated black man and her co-star Tom Riley (shown at bottom) to a young woman (played by Jade Yourell ) whom he's already been married to and divorced from. Each couple's post-ceremony reception takes place in the same hotel at the same time -- which makes for all kinds of surprises and misunderstandings, many of these farcical but unfortunately not handled with a particularly sure comedic touch.

Involved in these goings-on are a wealth of characters -- from Hawkin's young and noticeably "fatherless" daughter to various relatives, friends and -- in the case of Riley's bride-to-be-again -- a group of funny ladies she meets in a pub who then tag along for the ride. Much of the humor come from Mr. Riley again and again being placed into what appear to be compromising positions involving the character played by Ms Hawkins.
A little of this goes a long way, and, in any case, this kind of thing needs crack comedic timing from the actors and particularly the director, who unfortunately simply keeps his cameras going and leaves the actors on their own. The interesting thing is that they are all, finally, good enough to keep us involved and relatively well-entertained. By the film's finale, after we've spent 24 hours (of movie time) with these characters and dawn has just broken, the cast have become a bit like old friends.  "Seems like we've been with these people for a long time," my companion noted, with some surprise, "and I don't mean that in a bad way."

Early on, the movie may seem a bit rocky, but stick with Happy Ever Afters, and you'll probably be glad you did. Although where can you see it?  That's the question.  The film is apparently available via IFC On Demand -- even though IFC appears to have neglected to mention the film anywhere on its web site or in its marketing. I checked my local reception provider, Time Warner Cable, how-ever, and found that it is indeed available. You might want to check with your local provider to make certain of its existence, as well.

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