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Back to Home >  Entertainment >  Movies  >  Bruce Newman >

Bruce Newman's Sundance Journal





Saturday, January 22, 2005

Maybe If They'd Called It "Happy Beginnings" the Movie Would Have Been Better

It's not uncommon for the opening night film at festivals to be disappointing, and in that sense, writer-director Don Roos' ""Happy Endings'' was no disappointment. It underperformed in almost every way.

Roos made an impressive debut in 1998 with ""The Opposite of Sex,'' and has assembled an impressive cast to play characters that are, to varying degrees, grating. The movie has at least three stories running concurrently, one of which features Lisa Kudrow, an extremely annoying blackmailer played by Jesse Bradford and Bobby Cannavale playing an Hispanic stereotype; a second plot (starring a very funny Steve Coogan and completely undeveloped roles played by Laura Dern and Sarah Clarke) revolves around a dispute between a lesbian couple and a gay male couple over a baby.

The only part of the picture that is consistently interesting--and yet still cries out for much greater character development--stars Maggie Gyllenhaal, in her best performance to date, Tom Arnold and Jason Ritter. Gyllenhaal plays Jude, who first sleeps with Otis (Ritter), then his dad (Arnold), even though Otis is almost certainly gay and his father is almost certainly clueless.

Roos told the opening night audience that the film's distributor only insisted on taking out one joke. "Apparently if you imply Tom Cruise might be gay, the Earth stops,'' Roos said. Lion's Gate Films lawyers "told me I would find prison tiring.''

Unfortunately, his movie is equally exhausting.

It was the first trip to Sundance for Ritter, whose father John was here a couple of years ago with "Jack, the Dog." John Ritter died unexpectedly last year, and his son mentioned the other day that he had recognized a spot in Park City from a photograph of his dad that had appeared in a magazine.


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