10 April 2009

Happy Endings

I know this is an old film, released in 2005, but I just had a chance (and free time) to watch it. Now that Thai politics is anything but stable, it's perhaps my unconscious choice to watch a film with a positive name like 'Happy Endings'.

After viewing it, the title seems somewhat subtle: it's not plain Walt Disney-style happy endings, but kind of happy in As-Good-As-It-Gets style. The film plot doesn't promise any positive ending, yet director Don Roos manages to cast a positive light on it. The film involves lots of secrets and lies, and, if these aren't enough, lots of desires and confusions. It's set in LA and there are basically ten characters whose lives intersect and intertwine. It also seems like there's no morality here: a young girl and her stepbrother having sex with each other, a woman having sex with an older man for money, and an aspiring filmmaker wanting to be famous by exploiting other people's stories.

OK, this is America and what's surprising is that all these happen in a rather affluent suburb, reinforcing the claim made by such films as American Beauty that money doesn't promise benevolence or morality. In a way, the whole film can be construed as the American Dream gone awry, with these characters so lost, lonely and miserable. I think the film resembles Magnolia, but somehow chooses to portray these negative conditions in a lighter tone. However, there's a sense of optimism there when, towards the end, most characters dance together in a ballroom with Jude (superbly played by Maggie Gyllenhaal) crooning 'Just the Way You Are'.

I think the director prefers the status quo, saying that these characters are all too human, and being human means you are liable to make mistakes and seldom learn from them. There's no alternative but to accept our human frailty and weakness. However, as we're now entering the Obama age where (the possibility of) change is in the air, I wonder whether the director can do more than just portraying our all-too-human follies and giving up on all hopes for our redemption.

The paragraph I just wrote sounds weird to myself. Maybe Dechito's changing somehow, believing that he's a preacher who can change the world. Maybe he's no longer a cynic. Maybe he no longer wants to be an armchair philosopher. Maybe it's just his wistful thinking simply to be more than what he can be ...

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