What a time to be alive.
In Northern France, a rather wealthy family continues to get by and not really worry too much about the outside world, even despite the growing refugee-crisis right outside their very own windows. And when it turns out that her mother is sick, Eve (Fantine Harduin), a young teenager, begins to live with the family and get more acquainted with them. After all, her father (Mathieu Kassovitz) hasn’t entirely been in the picture for some time now, so why not start now? Meanwhile, her aunt (Isabelle Huppert) is settling things down with her company and figuring out who to pass it off to, when she isn’t also focusing on her new engagement to a British lawyer (Toby Jones). And Eve’s pop-pop (Jean-Louis Trintignant) constantly contemplates death what with his health rapidly deteriorating and the days getting darker and darker.
A lot of people have been calling Happy End Michael Haneke’s “greatest hits” in a certain sense and well, if that is the case, then what great hits they are to replay. Haneke’s style is so invigorating, compelling, and mannered, that it’s hard to be bored by anyone of his movies, even when it seems like he’s not really doing much but confusing us, or being even more cryptic than before. He’s also not afraid to disturb his audiences, which is why Happy End may seem a tad bit tame compared to what we’re used to with him, but still, it’s another solid reminder that he’s a talented film-maker who knows what he’s doing, no matter what.
Even when, you know, he doesn’t.
See, one of the main issues with Happy End is that it does feel awfully familiar, especially coming from Haneke. The movie is heavily advertised as being about the refugee-crisis and the way in how Northern France is changing, but really, the movie doesn’t ever seem to touch on that, with the exception of maybe one or two scenes. For the most part, it’s a movie about an awfully bourgeois family, being prissy, being rich, and being mean to one another in small, subtle ways, and it’s a fine little movie at that.
It’s still something we’ve seen from Haneke before, as is almost every other little thread. Does he handle it all well here? Yeah sure, but has he handled it much better before? Most definitely and it’s why Happy End can sometimes feel like he just had the opportunity to make a movie, got a cast together, was thrown some money, and decided to get rolling.
The end-result isn’t as boring and as lame as I make it sound, but trust me, you can kind of tell that Haneke cares, but only mildly.
But what really keeps Happy End worth watching is the main plot-thread starring Fantine Harduin as Eve, our conduit into this odd and sometimes dysfunctional family. While Haneke has approached this subject of kids being a lot more evil and twisted than we may originally think, Eve’s a tad smarter and it shows in the small scenes she has with her family-members, who all don’t really know what to make of her, the things she says, the questions she asks, and some of the things she does. In a way, had the movie just been about her being more connected to this family, Haneke may have really had something small, short, and almost sweet. But instead, we get a movie that has something to say, but with a lot going on, all of which, we’ve seen Haneke do before.
Maybe he’ll finally be able to get on that flash mob movie after all?
Consensus: Though always utilizing Haneke’s skill as an auteur, Happy End also feels like many pieces and parts of what he’s done and said before, but spread apart a midst of interesting characters who never get as developed as you’d hope.
6.5 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Les Films du Losange