HULK’S FAVORITE MOVIES (VOL II): HAPPY-GO-LUCKY (2008)

June 16, 2011

MIKE LEIGH MIGHT BE BEST FILMMAKER IN THE WORLD.

THAT TOUGH DISTINCTION GIVE ANYONE, ONE THAT LOADED WITH ALL SORTS EXPECTATIONS FROM EVERY KIND OF DISCERNING TASTE IMAGINABLE.  STILL, IT ONE THOSE THINGS THAT JUST FEEL TRUE. SURE, IF HULK JUST WANTED BE SAFE ABOUT THE WHOLE THING, HULK COULD HAVE JUST SAID LEIGH ONE OF “FAVORITE” FILMMAKERS… BUT REALLY THAT JUST FEEL LIKE A WASTE OF WORDS.

MIKE LEIGH MORE SPECIAL THAN THAT.

IT NO HELP THAT LEIGH ALSO ONE OF MOST MISUNDERSTOOD FILMMAKERS ON PLANET. THE CENTRAL TALKING POINT FOR HIS CAREER ABOUT HIS PROCESS AND “IMPROVISATIONAL” STYLE, BUT THIS MISCONSTRUED DEDUCTION. THE POPULAR UNDERSTANDING OF MIKE LEIGH’S PROCESS THAT HE COME UP WITH IDEA, GET ACTORS TOGETHER, THEN THEY JUST SORT OF DICK AROUND AND REHEARSE, FIGURE IT OUT, AND THEY SHOOT THE MOVIE LOOSELY CREATING THIS “NATURAL” TONE HE SO FAMOUS FOR.

BUT THIS NOT WHAT HAPPEN. WHATSOEVER.

IT ACTUALLY BEGIN WHEN LEIGH WRITE A FIRST DRAFT OF MOVIE. HULK, HAVING PERSONALLY READ SOME OF THESE FIRST DRAFTS, CAN ASSURE YOU THAT THESE NOT JUST SET OF BLUEPRINTS OR OUTLINE, BUT TRUE-BLUE PROTO-VERSIONS OF THE EVENTUAL FILM. AND THEY OFTEN BETTER THAN MOST SCRIPTS HULK EVER READ. WHAT FOLLOW NEXT A PERIOD OF REHEARSAL FOR SEVERAL WEEKS WITH CAST. THROUGH VERY ORGANIC PROCESS, THE REHEARSAL ESSENTIALLY INFORM A NEW VERSION OF THE SCRIPT BASED ON WHAT THEY DISCOVERED TOGETHER. SOMETIMES IT SIMPLE AS LINES ADJUSTED TO FIT ACTOR’S CADENCE. OCCASIONALLY THEY DISCOVER WHAT NOT WORKING. AND YES, IDEAS STREAMLINED FOR SURE, BUT IT NOT LIKE THE MOVIE MADE UP THERE ON THE SPOT. THEY THEN SHOOT THE FILM WITH NEWLY-ESTABLISHED, FULLY-DEVELOPED SCRIPT IN PLACE.

THE TRUTH IS THIS LIKE LOT OTHER PRE-PRODUCTION PROCESSES IT JUST LEIGH’S: 1) A LOT LONGER 2) VERY CAREFUL + EXACTING, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY 3) SCHEDULED BEFOREHAND.

…IF ONLY ALL MOVIES COULD DO THIS.

MAYBE COULD FIGURE HOW RECONCILE THE TWO STORIES THEY TELLING

WHAT FUNNY THAT THIS FAMOUS PROCESS SPUR ON ANOTHER WORD PEOPLE ALSO LOVE THROW AROUND WHEN DESCRIBING LEIGH’S WORK: “THEATRICAL.” WHICH ONLY TRUE IN SENSE THAT THIS REHEARSAL-HEAVY STYLE DELIBERATELY TAKEN FROM LEIGH’S DAYS OF DIRECTING THE LONDON STAGE. BUT THAT REALLY WHERE COMPARISONS END. IN TERMS OF ACTUAL SCREEN CONTENT AND “STYLE, HIS WORK LACK ALL SENSE OF THEATRICALITY. SURE, LEIGH NOT ONE FOR OVERT CINEMATIC STYLINGS. HE JUST FAVOR THE FORGOTTEN ART OF “INVISIBLE FILMMAKING.” EVERY EDIT CONTROLLED AND SPECIFIC WHILE BARELY NOTICING. THE CINEMATOGRAPHY GENTLE AND MEASURED, THE AUDIENCE ALWAYS FEEL LIKE THEY JUST ANOTHER PERSON IN ROOM INVOLVED IN CONVERSATION. THE CAMERA RARELY MOVE, BUT THE CHARACTERS AND SETTING MANAGE FILL THE SPACE INSTEAD. HULK FASCINATED BY HIS CONTINUOUS USE OF TWO-SHOTS. LEIGH USE THEM MORE THAN ANY DIRECTOR HULK EVER SEEN (1) AND HE FAVOR THESE SLIGHTLY ASYMMETRIC PERSPECTIVES TO HIGHLIGHT THE IMPORTANCE OF THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE CHARACTERS.  TO LEIGH, THAT THE MOST IMPORTANT THING, ALL THE TIME, ALWAYS. THE EFFECT OF DOING SO TWO-FOLD: 1) IT ACHIEVE THE NATURALISM THAT LEIGH SEEKING ESTABLISH IN HIS WORLDS AND 2) IT AN EXAMPLE OF TRULY PURE ECONOMICAL FILMMAKING.

BUT THIS JUST AESTHETICS. IT THE THEMATICS WHERE LEIGH TRULY THRIVE.

SEE, MORE THAN ANYONE, MIKE LEIGH KEENLY AWARE OF THE CONVENTIONS OF MOVIES.  AND HE UTILIZE AUDIENCE EXPECTATIONS SO SLYLY AS TO MAKE HULK SHAKE HEAD IN WONDER AND AWE. NOW THESE CINEMATIC CONVENTIONS THAT USED NOT THE SAME AS, SAY, QUENTIN TARANTINO OR EDGAR WRIGHT, WHO OFTEN THEM IN A CINEMATIC SENSE; MEANING THEY MAY BREAK SUDDENLY BREAK INTO A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT STYLE OF FILM: ACTION, ROMANCE, ANYTHING THAT SERVE THE LARGER STORY. THIS NOT TO IMPLY TARANTINO AND WRIGHT SIMPLY APING THE FORMATS AS EMPTY GESTURES. THEY USE THEM TO REINFORCE AN EMOTIONAL OR CHARACTER BEAT IN SPIRIT OF “CINEMATIC AMPLIFICATION.” BUT HULK JUST SAYING THAT LEIGH’S FILMS INSTEAD TROD ALONG WITH THEIR REALISTIC STYLE, UNVEILING THE WAYS IN WHICH THEY PLAY WITH YOUR EXPECTATIONS ON PURE STORY LEVEL. THAT RIGHT, MIKE LEIGH WORK LIKE TARANTINO BUT ON PURE STORYTELLING 101 LEVEL! AND THE RESULTS ALWAYS SPECTACULAR.

WHICH BRING HULK TO HAPPY-GO-LUCKY.

WHO, ME?

HULK TRULY WARY OF DESCRIBING IT AS “ONE OF BEST MOVIES EVER” BEFORE SOMEONE HAVE SEEN IT.  THE TRUTH THAT EVEN WHILE WATCHING IT YOU PROBABLY HAVE NO IDEA WHY HULK THINK SO HIGHLY OF IT. THIS CAUSE IT ONE OF THOSE MOVIE THAT NOT GOOD UNTIL YOU REALIZING EXACTLY WHAT IT DOING AND WHY. AND HONESTLY, LARGELY DEPENDENT ON HOW INTERESTING YOU FIND SAID ALTERATIONS OF EXPECTATION. HULK NO EVEN REALIZE WHAT SO TRULY PROFOUND UNTIL HULK HAD TIME TO CONTEMPLATE AFTERWARDS.

BASED SIMPLY ON PREMISE ALONE, HAPPY-GO-LUCKY ABOUT THE TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS OF BEING A HAPPY, OPTIMISTIC  PERSON IN AN OH-SO-CYNICAL WORLD. THE FILM’S MAIN CHARACTER, POPPY, A FLIGHTY SCHOOLTEACHER WHO ALWAYS ASSUME THE BEST IN PEOPLE NO MATTER HOW IT MAY GET HER IN “TROUBLE.” FIRST OFF, AS SIMPLE AS THIS PREMISE SOUND, HULK FIND IT INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT KIND OF SUBJECT THAT NOT NEARLY EXPLORED ENOUGH… IF AT ALL. AND WHILE THE FILM NEVER QUITE VEER FORM THIS STORYLINE (MEANING THERE NO TWIST OR ACTUAL NARRATIVE SHIFT) IT TRULY ALTER HOW IT GOING ABOUT THAT STORY IN VERY SUBTLE WAY. AND THAT WHY IT ONE BEST MOVIES EVER MADE.

COMPLETE AND TOTAL “SPOILERS” FROM HERE ON IN (2):

EVEN THOUGH THE MOVIE VERY REALISTIC -FEELING (NO HIGH-KEY LIGHTING, ETC), IT STILL CAREFULLY SET UP TO RESEMBLE THE STORY OF STANDARD ROMANTIC-COMEDY. THERE POPPY, THE TITULAR HAPPY-GO-LUCKY FIGURE WHOSE FRIENDS AND FAMILY TELL HER SHE HAVE BE MORE GUARDED WITH HER TRUST AND THAT SHE NEED BE MORE SERIOUS ABOUT LIFE. POPPY THEN MEET SCOTT, HER BY-THE-BOOK CURMUDGEONLY DRIVING INSTRUCTOR. POPPY’S HAPHAZARD AND CARE-FREE JOYFUL WAYS BOTH INFURIATE AND YET STILL DEEPLY ATTRACTIVE TO SCOTT. REMEMBER THIS EXPERTLY MADE FILM, SO THIS WHOLE DYNAMIC NO FEEL STAGED OR CAMPY OR INDIE OR TWEE OR ANYTHING REMOTELY CLOSE TO THAT. STILL BASED ON OUR ENTIRE HISTORY OF WATCHING MOVIES, IT ABSOLUTELY CLEAR WHAT THE EXPECTATION FOR THESE TWO CHARACTERS…

POPPY AND SCOTTY SITTING IN A TREE...

… AND THEN… THINGS BECOME DIFFERENT… AND YOU REALIZE THAT NOT THE KIND OF MOVIE YOU WATCHING AT ALL.

IT NOT LIKE LEIGH PULL RUG OUT FROM AUDIENCE. THERE NO SUDDEN TURN IN PLOT, OR STYLE, OR EVEN NARRATIVE. HE NEVER THAT CHEAP. IT JUST IN THAT THERE A SUDDEN MOMENT OF VIOLENCE THAT CULMINATE IN SCOTT GRABBING POPPY BY THE HAIR IN UNCONTROLLABLE ANGER AND IT SUDDENLY DAWN ON YOU: SCOTT HAVE REAL EMOTIONAL PROBLEMS. AT FIRST WE JUST WILLING DISMISS THEM AS IDIOSYNCRASIES, EVEN THE TIMES WHERE IT SKEWED A BIT ODD. BUT THEN THE VIEWER FORCED REALIZE THEY MUCH MORE THAN THAT. AND  THAT THE ENTIRE MOVIE BEEN BUILDING TO THIS POINT. SCOTT’S PARANOID CONSPIRACY THEORIES? THE (SEEMINGLY HUMOROUS) STALKING. THE DEEP-SEEDED SEXUAL ATTRACTION AND HIS LACK OF COMFORT WITH IT. LEIGH CAREFULLY SHOWED THE UNBALANCED REALITY OF SCOTT THE WHOLE TIME, BUT BECAUSE IT IN FRAMEWORK OF TRADITIONAL MOVIE DYNAMIC, THE AUDIENCE ALWAYS ASSUME THESE TWO CRAZY LOVE BIRDS GOING FIND HAPPINESS TOGETHER DESPITE THE ODDS. BUT LEIGH NO INTERESTED IN TERRIBLE ROMANTIC PSYCHOLOGICAL CLAP TRAP. HE INTERESTED IN THE GREATER TRUTHS OF HUMAN NATURE, SPECIFICALLY THE ONES THAT FLY IN THE FACE OF CINEMATIC EXPECTATION. SO INSTEAD OF ROMANTIC FIREWORKS, POPPY PUT HERSELF AT PHYSICAL RISK TO ONCE AGAIN EMBRACE HER KIND NATURE AND GENUINELY TRY HELP SCOTT. SHE FEEL PITY FOR HIM AND IT GENUINELY HEARTBREAKING MOMENT.

AND THIS POPPY’S SOLE REWARD FOR HER RELENTLESS POSITIVE NATURE? NOT BY LONG SHOT.

EARLIER IN FILM WE MEET TIM, A HANDSOME AND SENSITIVE SOCIAL WORKER WHO AUDIENCE INSTANTLY DISTRUST CAUSE HANDSOME PEOPLE ALWAYS JERKS IN MOVIES. AND BESIDES, IN AUDIENCE’S MIND POPPY ALREADY “PROMISED” TO SCOTT.  BUT EVENTUALLY WE REALIZE THESE STUPID ASSUMPTIONS. TIM TURNS OUT BE AN AMAZING PERSON AND HE FULLY UNDERSTAND AND POPPY. BETTER YET, THEY UNDERSTAND WHAT IMPORTANT ABOUT WORLD, BASED ON EARLIER SCENE IN WHICH THEY BOTH HELP A TROULBED CHILD IN POPPY’S CLASS. WHAT PERHAPS MOST BRILLIANT ABOUT ALL THIS THAT LEIGH NOT GIVE US ANY INDICATION WHATSOEVER THAT SCOTT A ROMANTIC HERO OR THAT TIM A JERK OR ANYTHING LIKE THAT. IT PURELY A CONSTRUCT OF THE AUDIENCE’S MIND.

HULK LOVE IT BECAUSE IT SERVE AS ABSOLUTE EVISCERATION OF SOME HORRIBLE THEMATIC CONVENTIONS OF THE ROMANTIC COMEDY GENRE, FOR EXAMPLE:

(1) THE MODERN HIGH-MINDED WOMAN FALLING FOR THE ASSHOLE

(2) ALL THE ASSHOLE NEEDING JUST TO BE CHALLENGED

(3) OR THE ASSHOLE JUST NEEDING BE LOVED

(4) THAT THE HANDSOME “OTHER” GUY INHERENTLY A JERK

(5) THAT GOOD PEOPLE SOMEHOW BAD JUDGE OF CHARACTER OR “LIKE ALL THE WRONG GUYS”

(6) FUNNY + SILLY TYPES CANT BE SEXY AND IF ARE THEY RELEGATED TO SIDEKICK STATUS AND YET STILL MAN-EATERS FOR SOME REASON

(7) IT IMPOSSIBLE TO FIT SMART, SERIOUS CONTENT ALONG WITH THE ROMANCE CAUSE IT “A DOWNER”

(8) THAT PEOPLE BECAUSE PEOPLE ATTRACTED TO THINGS FOREIGN TO THEM, THEY MUST CREATE REALITY WHERE THESE INCONGRUITIES SOMEHOW WORK

AND MOST HORRIBLY, (9) THAT KINDNESS WILL BE PUNISHED.

… SERIOUSLY, WHAT REALISTIC OR HUMAN ABOUT ANY OF THESE?

HULK HATE THAT HIEGL BASICALLY ABANDON THE HUMANISTIC APATOW GANG IN NAME OF FEMINISM AND YET THEN STARRED IN NOTHING BUT MOVIES THAT ENDORSE THE NINE HORRIBLE THINGS LISTED ABOVE

AND WHAT CAUSE WRITERS TO EVEN CREATE THESE ODD, DISGUSTING THEMES FOR ROMANTIC?

FOR ONE, IT EASIER. STORIES HAVE BE ABOUT CONFLICT AND DRAMA SO REALLY THERE NO EASIER SOLUTION THAN “THEY HATE EACH OTHER, THEY LOVE EACH OTHER!” THIS ACTUALLY OKAY IN SOME WAYS. TONS OF HULK’S FAVORITE MOVIES FROM 40’S KICK ASS WITH THIS CONCEIT. BUT IT THE KIND OF STALE THIS DAY AND AGE WHERE IT NOW SO RECYCLED YET POPULAR THAT WE SOMEHOW CONDITIONED TO THINK THIS HUMAN TRUTH… UGH.

AND THIS MAY BE SHOCK, BUT HULK HAVE TELL YOU WRITERS CAN TEND TO BE MISANTHROPIC BUNCH. WHICH MEAN THAT HAPPY PEOPLE PUNISHED AND FORCED LEARN TO EMBRACE SADNESS AND REALITIES OF WORLD. ATTRACTIVE PEOPLE SUCK. RICH PEOPLE SUCK. AND SO MANY OF THEM CAN  BARELY UNDERSTAND THE OTHER SEX OUTSIDE WHAT THEY HATE ABOUT THEM. GUESS THAT WHERE THE “WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW” PART COME IN. THE ONLY DIFFERENCE THAT THEY PUT HAPPY LITTLE BOW ON END.

IT REGRETTABLE THAT ROMANTIC COMEDIES BECOME SOME HORRIBLE BUZZWORD. HULK OF THE SHAKESPEAREAN MIND THAT ALL STORIES THAT NO END TRAGEDY = JUST COMEDIES. AND UNLESS INDULGING IN ABSURDITY, THEN ALL THOSE MOVIES JUST REALLY ROMANTIC COMEDIES.(3) BUT THE CONSCIOUS AMERICAN-CINEMA-GOING-ADULT COME TO HATE THE TRADITIONAL VERSION OF THESE MOVIES CAUSE THEY ALWAYS SOME DUMB BATTLES OF SEXES WITH COMPLETELY UNCALLED FOR HAPPILY-EVER-AFTER. IT IT JUST BECAUSE THE WRITER HAVE MAKE WORLD WHERE THE CHARACTERS PROBLEMS MAGICALLY WORK OUT.

BUT NOT HAPPY-GO-LUCKY.

HOORAY!

THE FILM NOT ABOUT HAPPY PEOPLE COMING TO GRIPS WITH CYNICAL WORLD. IT ABOUT HAPPY PEOPLE GETTING THE THINGS THEY BOTH DESERVE AND EARN THROUGH THEIR EFFORTS. POPPY A CONCERNED TEACHER. TIM A CONCERNED SOCIAL WORKER. HULK THINK IT NO MISTAKE THEY BOTH PART OF “THE SYSTEM.” THEY BOTH PEOPLE WHO BELIEVE IN THE SANCTITY OF EFFORT, OTHER PEOPLE, AND WORKING FOR COMMUNITIES.(4) THEY NOBLE PEOPLE AND THEY CERTAINLY NOT DISILLUSIONED. THEY FACE PROBLEMS, CONFLICT, ALL THAT STUFF. BUT THEY JUST WORK HARD AND CHOOSE HAPPINESS. LEIGH FIND HIS STORY BY LOOKING THROUGH LENS OF REALITY AND NOT THE WARPED REALITY OF MOVIES.

SO WHERE THE DRAMA? THAT NOT NECESSARY? HOW THIS EVEN A GOOD MOVIE?

AFTER ALL, POPPY HAVE NO ARC. SHE NO GROW UP BEFORE AUDIENCE EYES. SHE NO HAVE EPIPHANIES. SHE STAY THE SAME. THE THING THAT CHANGE THE AUDIENCE AND OUR UNDERSTANDING OF HER. WHEN DONE WELL, THESE SOME OF HULK’S FAVORITE MOVIES. WHEN DONE POORLY, THESE SOME OF HULK’S LEAST FAVORITE MOVIES. THE AUDIENCE START OF THINKING OF POPPY AS THE VICTIM, THE DITZ WHO WILL FAIL AT LIFE. BUT THE FILM SLOWLY REVEAL HER AS NOT JUST COMPETENT, NOT JUST VERY SERIOUS ABOUT HER JOB, BUT SOMEONE WHO TRULY SPECIAL. LEIGH EVEN DEFTLY HANDLE HER SEXUALITY. WE FIRST THINK HER A FLIGHTY, CRAZY-DRESSING BEAN-POLE, BUT IN THE SCENE AFTER HER FIRST NIGHT WITH TIM, WE SEE THEN POPPY IN HER UNDERWEAR AND LIKEWISE IN A NEW CONTEXT. THE SCENE NON-OVERTLY BATHED IN GENTLE GRAYISH SUNLIGHT. IT BOTH REALISTIC AND POSITIVE.  HER SEXUALITY= QUIET, STILL, AND CONFIDENT. BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY IT FIRST TIME THE FILM TREAT HER AS UNDENIABLY SEXY. SHE NOT DIFFERENT. THE CINEMA STYLE NOT GO ALL BODY HEAT ON US. IT JUST PRESENT NEW LIGHT. IT AN INCREDIBLY SUBTLE SCENE, YET ABSOLUTELY EFFECTIVE.

AND AS FOR EVERYBODY’S CRITICISMS OF POPPY’S JOVIAL QUALITIES? THE ONES AUDIENCE THINK GOING TO EVENTUALLY CATCH UP WITH HER? THEY JUST REFLECTIONS OF THE OTHER CHARACTER’S DISAPPOINTMENTS. THEIR OWN DEPRESSION. THEIR CHOICES.(5)

SO POPPY DEFIES THEM AND TRUSTS HER OWN HUMANITY.

AND REALLY, POPPY’S GREATEST HEROISM NOT JUST STANDING UP TO THEM, BUT STANDING UP AND BEING DEFIANT TO THE AUDIENCE.

MIKE LEIGH, ALWAYS, AND WITH NO EXCEPTION HERE, HAS CREATED A WORK SO COMPLETE WITH BRILLIANT STORY TELLING AND YET IT SO ACHINGLY COMPASSIONATE.

AND FOR THAT HAPPY-GO-LUCKY ONE OF HULKS FAVORITE MOVIES OF ALL TIME.

…. OH AND ONE LAST THING…

IF YOU THINK HULK OVERESTIMATING LEIGH’S WORTH, THAT THIS JUST HULK BEING OVER GRACIOUS TO FILMMAKER NOT A LOT “LOVE” OR EVEN “HEARD OF,” AND THAT THIS APPRAISAL NOT IN LINE WITH “GENERAL CONSENSUS” AND HULK JUST TALKING OUT “HULK BUTT”, THEN KNOW THIS YOU OH-DEFENDER-OF-POPULISM…

MIKE LEIGH HAVE THE HIGHEST PER-MOVIE-FRESH-RATING AVERAGE ON ROTTEN TOMATOES.

SO HEY, MAYBE MIKE LEIGH THE BEST FILMMAKER IN THE WORLD?

HE CERTAINLY UP TO SOMETHING

(1) THIS NOT COUNTING KEVIN SMITH. WHOSE EARLY FILMS USED TWO SHOTS OUT OF NEED. THEY ALSO FRAMED HORRIBLY.

(2) IT FEEL WEIRD USING TERM “SPOILER” IN A MOVIE AS MEASURED AND HUMAN AS THIS ONE. HULK COULD HAVE JUST SAY “HULK GOING TALK ABOUT ENDING NOW.”

(3) APATOW MOVIES? ABSOLUTELY JUST ROMANTIC COMEDIES. THOSE INDIE “DRAMADIES’ JUST ROMANTIC COMEDIES WITH MORE SERIOUS OVERTONES. EVEN THE BIG BUDGET SUMMER BLOCKBUSTERS END WITH EVERYTHING SET RIGHT AND HERO “GETTING THE GIRL.”* IN TERMS FORMULA, THEY ABSOLUTELY COMEDIES.

*IF THEY NO GET THE GIRL THOUGH IT USUALLY THE TURN BEING SOME WEIRD SEXUAL OBSTRUCTION WHERE THE HERO AND GIRL CAN NO BE TOGETHER, BUT USUALLY THIS SOME JUST TO DELAY ACTUAL STORYTELLING SINCE THEY HAVE NOTHING MORE TO SAY FURTHER THAN “THEY LOVE EACH OTHER NOW!” OR WORSE OUT OF SOME STRANGE PURITANICAL INCLINATION TO KEEP SUPERHEROES A-SEXUAL… HULK JUST REALIZED HE USED SUPERHERO/BIG BUDGET SUMMER MOVIES INTERCHANGABLY… IT BEEN WEIRD DECADE.

(4) IT NO ACCIDENT SCOTT ACHINGLY PROUD OF HIS INDEPENDENCE AND OUTSIDE BUSINESSES AND NOT BEING RELIANT ON OTHER PEOPLE. NOT SURPRISINGLY IT ONLY BREED UNHAPPINESS. AND WHAT A COINCIDENCE, HULK JUST HAD LOTS THOUGHTS ON ISOLATING OUTWARD NATURES.

(5) HULK NOT REALLY TALKING ABOUT IT MUCH CAUSE CONCENTRATING ON LEIGH, BUT SALLY HAWKINS AND THE ENTIRE CAST IN THIS MOVIE SO FUCKING GOOD THAT HULK NO EVEN KNOW WHAT TO SAY.

RANDOM: IF CURIOUS ABOUT MIKE LEIGH’S CRITICAL STUFF CHECK OUT WORK OF RAY CARNEY. HE THE WORLDS LEADING AUTHORITY ON CASSAVETES AND WHEN HE WROTE EVERY POSSIBLE WORD ON HIM, CARNEY TRANSITION TO MIKE LEIGH. A STELLAR DECISION AND THERE HUGE SIMILARITIES IN THE WORK, NAMELY THEY BOTH MISTAKEN FOR THEIR IMPROVISATIONAL STYLES (CASSAVETES WROTE HIS MOVIES)… CARNEY ALSO CRAZY SEXIST.

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11 Responses to “HULK’S FAVORITE MOVIES (VOL II): HAPPY-GO-LUCKY (2008)”

  1. Bevin said

    I really look forward to seeing this. Of Mike Leigh’s body of work I’ve only seen “Secrets and Lies,” but I completely fell in love with it, and I really respect his method for fine tuning his script. The results in “Secrets and Lies” are some incredibly astonishing acting and layers upon layers of complex character dynamics that feel like they’ve actually been building up for years between everyone on screen. Everyone is complex and human; likable in one scene, unbearable in another, sometimes inscrutable, illogical and contradictory, but never in a way that conveys sloppy writing or acting. They reflect the wonderful, maddening, irritating, and winsome qualities of being human. I’m very happy I have so many of his movies to look forward to seeing.

  2. [...] PLOT DEVELOPED AROUND THEM. SO HULK ASK, WHY NOT INTRODUCE A CHARACTER OVER LONGER PERIOD OF TIME? HULK RECENTLY ESPOUSE THE INCREDIBLE MERITS OF HAPPY-GO-LUCKY BECAUSE IT GRADUALLY REVEAL THE MORE DIMENSIONS OF ITS MAIN CHARACTER OVER ENTIRE COURSE OF MOVIE. [...]

  3. Joe said

    I just watched this last night. Ye gods, what a fantastic film.

    After your mention of Leigh using two-shots, I kept my eyes open, and noticed something interesting: as far as I could tell, Poppy shares a lot of shots with almost every character…other than Scott. In contrast, almost every time we see Tim, he’s in the frame with Poppy.

    Many thanks for the recommendation and the insights.

  4. Happy-Go-Lucky is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. I think it will stay with me forever, and I look forward to re-watching again in a few years.

    Another film I remembered liking the first time and enjoyed even more a second time was Friends with Money.

    Thanks for the great blog posts!

  5. [...] HAPPY GO LUCKY – THIS MOVIE SAYS ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL THINGS EVER. [...]

  6. trifoi said

    I’m somewhat related to Poppy, as I’m more trusting and optimistic than 99% of my friends, I really loved this movie three years ago and I basically had fights with all my friends who saw it and hated it.
    Then I saw Another Year, which I hated after the screening. Two months later, after thinking about it almost every night, I realised I loved it like crazy :) Mike Leigh is absolutely amazing!

  7. Jeff said

    Your review of Girls convinced me to watch the movie, and I glossed over your discussion of Happy Go Lucky and just watched the movie instead.

    Scott is a scary/hateful person from the start. Maybe I don’t watch enough romantic comedies, but I don’t think I would catch the irony, or the playing with expectations, if you weren’t pointing them out here. It’s like your review is better than the actual movie.

  8. Having read your article, and respecting your opinion on these matters, I watched this film in spite of the grossly misleading trailers. I’m glad I read the article first because I’m sad to suspect I would have found it boring, and not have realised what leigh was doing. Instead, I had a very meaningful and moving experience.

    Poppy’s kind of like Superman, or what superman should be. Maybe too good to be true, but an ideal to strive towards. What an excellent character.

    Anyway, thanks. I love your articles.

  9. […] Watched Happy-Go-Lucky on Netflix and was so pleasantly surprised… who’d've thought a movie about ‘anti-miserablism’ could be so life-affirming?  (Derf.)  For some knee-jerk judgmental reason, I thought I’d not like it, or be annoyed for investing 118 minutes into chirpy mediocrity.  (Been burned by Netflix poster images before.)  In any case, don’t watch the American-male-narrator voice-dub trailer — one will definitely hate that.  But the movie itself was actually amazing, a light tragi-comedy.  Seriously, pretty inspirational in terms of harnessing positive life force.   […]

  10. Panache said

    Love Leigh and “Happy-Go-Lucky”.

    There is one aspect in which Leigh leans into its movieness early and often. He studiously subverts most romantic cliches, but Poppy herself fits pretty snugly into the archetype of the manic pixie dream girl. It’s a great relief to see the world from her perspective, avoiding some of its claptraps (e.g. Tim over Scott, Poppy as flighty but stable, etc.) but fulfilling the archetype in concerning ways.

    Every interaction between the lovers certainly barrels right along the line of cutesy. Until the cut post-coitus, either of the thirty-somethings could easily be preteens for their depth and breadth of interaction. As such, the scenes from their professional lives seem more playing at adulthood than fulfilling it.

    When contrasted at the other extreme, Scott does not realize how childish his demonstrations are. However if Poppy sees his tantrums for what they are, why continue to needle him? Most adults develop some situational awareness, and finding themselves in close-quarters with an unstable creature, they do not continue to twist its tail, regardless the sunniness of their own outlook. Not everyone shares said outlook, and many folks have good cause for their dourness, if not paranoia. It is difficult to blame a wounded animal for lashing out at its perceived tormentor, regardless the inaccuracy of said perception.

    Most of the story’s drama evolves from Poppy’s resolute refusal to approach anyone or anything with any speed other than “Poppy”. For all the good it does turning from the cliche, it is odd that this bit that remains.

    Anyway, it certainly does not sink the message or its method, but it eats at me more and more each time I watch the film.

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