Perth International Arts Festival – Happy Happy review

Happy Happy – Starring Agnes Kittelsen, Henrik Rafaelsen and Joachim Rafaelsen. Directed by Anne Sewitsky. Rated M. By Simon Miraudo.

Happy Happy plays the Perth International Arts Festival from December 5 to 11. Click here for more details.

Don’t be fooled: movies with ‘happy’ in the title are rarely that. Happy Go Lucky?  Very, very sad. The Pursuit of Happyness? Super depressing. Come on, Get Happy: The Partridge Family Story? Anyone who has seen the reality-TV show Breaking Bonaduce knows that tale didn’t come to a cheerful conclusion.

Continuing that fine tradition is Anne Sewitsky’s Norwegian comedyHappy Happy, literally translated from Sykt lykkelig to Insanely Happy. The adorable Agnes Kittelsen stars as Kaja (not unlike the peppy Poppy from Mike Leigh’s aforementioned Happy Go Lucky). Stuck in a sexless marriage to her closeted husband (Joachim Rafaelsen), she eagerly awaits the arrival of new neighbours coming in from the big city. Sigve (Henrik Rafaelsen) and Elisabeth (Maibritt Saerens) with their adopted son Noa (Ram Shihab Ebedy) are immediately smothered by Kaja, who wants them to become instant BFFs. However, her smiling veneer soon cracks after a couple of disastrous dinner parties, and a somewhat incestuous love-quadrangle emerges between the two couples.

Happy Happy took home the prestigious World Cinema – Dramatic prize at Sundance earlier in the year (the same title given to Animal Kingdom in 2010, but that’s where the similarities end). Now it’s Norway’s contender for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2012 Oscars, and it’s just the kind of relationship dramedy the Academy eat up.

As well they should. A marital drama this fun, honest and well-performed deserves recognition. Like The Kids Are All Right and infinite Woody Allen films before it, Happy Happy is a charming little picture that, despite being over-sentimental at times, is human enough to be considered a valuable gem.

3.5/5

Check out Simon’s other reviews here.

Happy Happy plays the Perth International Arts Festival from December 5 to 11. Click here for more details.

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