Un-Happiness

Happiness is not without merit. Solondz and his cinematographer, Maryse Alberti, are masters at capturing a character's isolation in a single shot. Frame after frame of this film could be used to illustrate a coffee-table book on suburban anomie. The performances are also fine, in an acting class sort of way: Actor after actor delivers a character-defining monologue without really paying attention to his or her partner.

But then, in this film's universe, even your therapist falls asleep. Solondz is, of course, entitled to his worldview, though it's a profoundly alienating one. Serious topics like child abuse and horrible personal pain probably shouldn't be used as a basis for humor as cheap as this movie's. In the current issue of Filmmaker, Solondz allows that he thought the film would be "unbearable if it were not funny."

He's wrong. Because Happiness is funny, it becomes unbearable.

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