Happy End (2017)

61% – Audience

Happy End Storyline

Gradually succumbing to dementia, George Laurent, the octogenarian patriarch of the Laurents, an affluent upper-bourgeois family, is uncomfortably sharing his palatial manor in Calais, the heart of the infamous migrant jungle, with his twice-married son, Thomas, and Anne, his workaholic daughter who has taken over the family construction business. Divorced and frigid, Anne has to handle the impact of a disastrous workplace accident caused by her disappointing son Pierre’s negligence, while at the same time, the urgent hospitalisation of Thomas’ ex-wife from a mysterious poisoning, leads his sulky 13-year-old daughter, Ève, to live with her father and his new wife, Anais. Undoubtedly, in this family, everyone has a skeleton in the closet, and as the fates of the Laurents enmesh with insistent and ignoble desires, a peculiar and disturbing alliance will form. But in the end, some secrets are bigger than others.

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Happy End Movie Reviews

Haneke only hitting some right notes here

“Happy End” is a French-Austrian co-production released this year (2017) and these 105 minutes are Austria’s current submission to the Oscars. If you read the name Haneke, then you will certainly know that the title is not meant to be seriously but sarcastically. The cast is predominantly French and French is also the main language here, but you will also find actors from several other European countries. It is a pretty absurd and rather awkward tale at times as basically everybody is really just for himself, especially the grown-ups and they effortlessly transfer their rotten characters to the next generation with their behavior towards them. There is for example the scene where the dad talks about the old man’s suicide attempt in front of the daughter, lets her hear everything and then tries to comfort her. Or of course all interactions between Huppert and Rogowski. A lot more is broken in this film than just that one wall. Speaking of Haneke and his last Austrian Oscar submission, there are moments when you could think that, especially with everything revolving Trintignant’s character, this film here is a sequel. But there are moments when it also doesn’t seem that way, for example Huppert’s character’s name.

Anyway, this film here has nothing on Amour, which is a genuine masterpiece in my opinion and it’s also way weaker than “The White Ribbon” in my opinion. It’s an okay family drama overall and a decent character study about everybody involved and Haneke once again proves how strong he is as the few moments when he goes a bit over the top still don’t keep this film from being very authentic. The acting is good too all around. Trintignant shines once again, but I may be biased as I like him a lot and think he should have won the Oscar for Amour already. Another pretty positive surprise is Fantine Harduin and she was really good here, could have a bright career ahead if she decides to take the actress path. Back to Haneke, this is maybe one of his most provocative works. When he kills the hamster early on, most audience members feel really bad for the animal, but almost nobody feels bad for the woman in the background basically suffering the same tragic fate. The reason in my opinion is that we know the woman did not die really, but the animal did and I just cannot approve of that. I think Haneke is a really great filmmaker, but this recurring theme from is films is just wrong. Another provocative scene is when the son brings these Black men to the party as many in the audience maybe thought oh these are the ones the old man asked earlier to kill him right? Especially when the old man quickly decides to leave the occasion. But I think it is not. But it adds salt to the wound that to Whites Blacks do look the same. At least I interpreted this scene like that. So yes, overall it wasn’t a bad watch, even if it was inferior to Haneke’s 2 most recent other works, clearly inferior in fact. But as this one offers a lot to discuss too (as always with Haneke thanks to the depth in his films and characters), I’d give it a ***/*****, but I have to remove one star because of the hamster scene at the very start. The “no animals were harmed” part during the closing credits should also apply to Haneke. I mean it’s not like the son was really beaten up that one scene (i.e. the actor), but why not do that too if he lets his animals even do method acting in terms of life and death and I am not saying any actors should really get killed (absolutely not!), but the animal violence/killing part, even if it is for the art of cinema, is just wrong and ultimately has me giving this film a thumbs-down. Don’t watch.

Get Out Your Hanekes

Haneke is, of course, flavour of the month and a major player in the Academic-Pseud set. Alas, Isabelle Huppert, one of the finest actresses in captivity, has a penchant for sleaze, quirkiness, and the like which leads her toward the Hanekes of this world and ultimately means that if admirers want to see Huppert in full spate it is necessary to endure the self-regarding pretentiousness of material such as this. On the credit side Huppert will, on occasion, make a pure entertaining movie like Alexandra Leclere’s Les Souers fachees, which is worth ten Hanekes. This time around Haneke gives us his idea of subtle by placing a hugely affluent but dysfunctional family in Calais so that we, the audience, can cry, ‘Ah, these poor, rich bastards in the big house don’t know where they’re well off, if only they’d take a look at all that human flotsam just outside the grounds, living like pigs on the hope of getting to England. You could have found more subtle messaging – Yankee Go Home – on the walls of any German town in the immediate post-war years. See it for Huppert.

in their own bleak world

Greetings again from the darkness. Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke has blessed us with, what I consider, at least five excellent movies (AMOUR, THE WHITE RIBBON, CACHE, FUNNY GAMES, THE PIANO TEACHER), and though it’s been 5 years since his last, there is always a welcome anticipation for his next project. Unfortunately, this latest is esoteric and disjointed even beyond his usual style. In fact, at face value, it just seems only to be an accusation lobbed at the wealthy, stating that their privilege and cluelessness brings nothing but misery and difficulty to themselves and the rest of society.

We open on an unknown kid’s secretive cell phone video filming of her mother getting ready for bed, followed by the mistreatment of a pet hamster as a lab rat, and finally video of her mother passed out on the sofa – just prior to an ambulance being called. Our attention is then turned to a family estate in Calais, which is inhabited by the octogenarian patriarch Georges (Jean-Louis Trintigant), his doctor son Thomas (Mathieu Kassovitz) and daughter Anne (Isabelle Huppert), Anne’s malcontent son Pierre (Franz Rogowski), Thomas’ wife and infant son, and the Moroccan couple who are household servants. While her mother is being treated for an overdose, 13 year old Eve (Fantine Harduin), moves in to the estate (Thomas is her re-married father). It’s here that we learn the opening scenes were Eve’s video work … clearly establishing her as a damaged soul.

Initially, it seems as though we will see the family through Eve’s eye, but what follows instead is the peeling back of family layers exposing the darkness and menace that haunts each of these characters. Georges appears to be intent on finding a way out of the life that has imprisoned his body and is now slowly taking his mind through dementia. Thomas is carrying on an illicit affair through raunchy email exchanges. Anne is trying to protect the family construction business from the incompetence of her son Pierre, while also looking for love with solicitor Toby Jones. At times, we are empathetic towards Eve’s situation, but as soon as we let down our guard, her true colors emerge. The film is certainly at its best when Ms. Harduin’s Eve is front and center. Her scene with her grandfather Georges uncovers their respective motivators, and is chilling and easily the film’s finest moment.

The film was a Cannes Palme d’Or nominee, but we sense that was in respect to Mr. Haneke’s legacy, and not for this particular film. The disjointed pieces lack the necessary mortar, or even a linking thread necessary for a cohesive tale. What constitutes a happy end … or is one even possible? Perhaps that’s the theme, but the film leaves us with a feeling of incompleteness – or perhaps Haneke just gave up trying to find such an ending, and decided commentary on the “bourgeois bubble” was sufficient.