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Happy Here and Now

  • Film

Time Out says

MIND GAMES Liane Balaban goes mental.

Three years ago, when Happy Here and Now started making the festival rounds, it scanned like the latest indie iteration of Big Easy bohemia. In the five-minutes-into-the-future scenario, Muriel (Harlow) has come back to New Orleans in search of her sister, whose inexplicable disappearance had something to do with chatroom weirdness involving an introspective fireman (Geary) and his exterminator brother (Arquette). Around this skeletal premise, the director free-associates an eccentric thriller in which little makes perfect sense,and damn near anything goes: slipped identities, metaphysical avatars, laser eye-surgery mishaps, impromptu magic tricks, haywire Tesla coils, spectacular Jheri curls, Blaise Pascal. Imagine Jarmusch meeting Egoyan on the set of demonlover—though you'll crack your skull thinking too hard about it.

Post-Katrina, however, the film's hallucinatory kook and pungent local color read with unexpected poignancy. Mother Nature and the vagaries (or opportunism?) of distribution have lent a documentary-like gravitas to Almereyda's essayistic self-consciousness. It's still a mixed bag of undergrad philosophizing and low-fi techno-futurism—albeit a gorgeously shot one—but Happy Here and Now is now much more than originally intended.—C.C. Binks

(Now playing; IFC Center. See Now playing for showtimes)

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