Another Happy Day

Ellen Barkin in Another Happy Day

Ellen Barkin in Another Happy Day

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Time Out says

Mon Nov 14 2011

Tolstoy claimed that every unhappy family is unhappy in its own particular way. The miserable clan in Sam Levinson's drama, however, seems to be unhappy in all the usual screen-ready ways: drug addictions, physical and emotional abuse, self-mutilation, nervous breakdowns. For Lynn (Barkin), having to spend time with these people at her eldest son's wedding is like entering a living hell. Her other children are all equally hot messes: Chemically imbalanced Elliot (Miller) can't curb his cutting wit; Alice (Bosworth) self-harms through actual cutting; and the youngest kid has Asperger's syndrome. (Worse: He's an aspiring filmmaker!) Throw in the world's most withholding mother, a senile dad, two gossipy-gorgon sisters, a prickish ex-husband and his judgmental new wife, and you have a collection of Chekhovian characters sitting on a powder keg in a match factory.

You could get whiplash watching this bipolar drama jerk between extremes: For every extraordinary scene---such as an authentically awkward exchange between Bosworth and estranged dad Thomas Haden Church---there's a sequence or three that might be extended collegiate acting exercises. A razor-sharp response to a grandparent's casual racism ("It's okay, she's twice as old as civil rights") is quickly buried beneath dialogue that resembles people reading the DSM-IV aloud. The young writer-director hasn't developed the chops to take on such an epic ensemble tale of dysfunction, and the result leaves Another Happy Day's emotionally moving moments stranded in a minefield of familial-pain clichs.

Follow David Fear on Twitter: @davidlfear

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