Happy, Happy

2 out of 5 stars
Happy, Happy

Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars

No one could be faulted for initially thinking the title of this Norwegian dramedy---so quote-unquote ecstatic they named it twice?---skews heavily toward the ironic, given the film's early abundance of cringeworthy social awkwardness. A city couple, Sigve (Henrik Rafaelsen) and Elisabeth (Saerens), move to the country; it's revealed that something rancid has sparked this relocation. Their landlords are stereotypically small-town just-folks: Kaja (Kittelsen) is all overly sunny disposition and lack of sophistication, while her husband (Joachim Rafaelsen) is a stoic brute and borderline xenophobe. (He also harbors a secret, though a blind person could guess what said indiscretion is long before it's confirmed.) A horribly uncomfortable board-game night plays out like an Edward Albee piece, until Kaja and Sigve unexpectedly share a kiss. Flying sparks turn into a sexual bonfire.

It's at this point that Anne Sewitsky's debut feature shifts into a blend of infidelity farce and domestic-strife melodrama that never quite finds an organic middle ground. Kittelsen turns her character's wide-eyed neediness into an emotional symphony, but her complex portrayal of a simpleton is up against the sort of easy-out script-writing in which a choral version of "Amazing Grace" magically solves all problems and the casual cruelty of children is simply a punch-line setup. Throw in some quirky interludes of a Norwegian quartet singing old American spirituals every so often, and you've got something that's truly messy, messy.

Follow David Fear on Twitter: @davidlfear

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