Happy Go Lucky

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Re: Happy Go Lucky

Postby Precious Doll » Sun Sep 13, 2020 8:34 am

Being something of a Mike Leigh fan I've decided to revisit the few films of his that I didn't much care for.

In the last few weeks I have purchased Blu Rays of Happy-Go-Lucky, Meantime, Life is Sweet & pre ordered Topsy Turvy.

I just finished watching Happy-Go-Lucky and am now a fan of the film and Sally Hawkins performance in the film. It was impossible for me to remember what were the issues I had with film aside from remembering that Sally Hawkin's Poppy was very annoying.

Reading my comments below I must admit I didn't find what I found about the behaviour of Poppy objectionable this time around. Annoying yes. I can understand Edie Marsan's frustration and still believe Poppy shouldn't be behind the wheel of a car but she's not alone there but I simply found the film a much more enjoyable experience this time round. I'll put my initial response down to 'shock of the new'. Sometimes films can grate on the first viewing but a subsequent becomes more pleasurable having already encountered the film before and one knows what to expect.

I would certainly recommend to those to don't like this film but generally like Mike Leigh's films to give this another chance. If however, you don't much care for Mike Leigh or he is his and miss with you I probably wouldn't give it a second look.

I am eager to see how other films that I considered lesser works fare on second viewings. Certainly the films of Mike Leigh that I admire on the first viewings have all held up on my second viewings.
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Postby Precious Doll » Tue Mar 31, 2009 3:50 am

Apart from saying that I didn't think that Sally Hawkins would earn an Oscar nomination because her character was so annoying I don't think I have said anything further about Happy-Go-Lucky since I saw it last June/July.

Though I was proven right I did end up including her on my own prediction list as I thought all those critic awards would have propelled her to a nomination. Whilst I was glad that she missed out I thought she was more deserving then either Jolie or Winslet (for either of her performances).

Reading all these comments on the film and Hawkins I thought I might weigh in on a particular aspect that annoyed me the most.

I found Poppy's behavior whilst learning to drive to be irresponsible and consequently out of character.

Poppy was capable of taking matters seriously when warranted. An example in the film is the manner in which she interacts with one of her pupils who is having behavioural problems. She handles this situation with sensitivity, compassion and the seriousness that it warrants.

However whilst learning to drive she behaves like a complete jerk. I also found it completely ridiculous that Eddie Marsden's character would have tolerated her childish behaviour for a long as he did. That he allowed a second lesson to take place was beyond my comprehension. He had warned Poppy during her first lesson to wear more sensible foot wear but she persisted in wearing those same ugly inappropriate boots that she prances around throughout much of the film.

Getting behind the wheel of a car is not a matter that can be taken lightly by anyone. Unfortunately there are more then enough people driving around who don't take driving as seriously as they should, sometimes resulting in tragic accidents.

My point is that as 'happy-go-lucky' as Poppy may be, I found it impossible to believe that her character would carry on in the manner whilst behind the wheel of a car or that any driving instructor (no matter on unhinged - it's his living for crying out loud) would tolerate this. She could quite easily have hit someone. Maybe Mike Leigh should have have that happen as it would have sent the film off into a completely different realm.

My compliant may seem like small potatoes but I did find it to be a fundamental flaw with the film. Despite the collaborative manner in which Leigh orchestrates his films, he is the director and ultimately responsible for what appears in the final work.

Hawkins is a capable actress. Mike Leigh's All or Nothing shows what she is capable of with only a handful of scenes. I don't think her performance in Happy-Go-Lucy is by any means bad, just very annoying to me personally, resulting in a film that I found to be something of an endurance test.

A minor work from a major director.
"I want cement covering every blade of grass in this nation! Don't we taxpayers have a voice anymore?" Peggy Gravel (Mink Stole) in John Waters' Desperate Living (1977)

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Postby FilmFan720 » Mon Mar 30, 2009 5:45 pm

Count me among the thoroughly unimpressed. The film just sort of sits there, with little purpose and I didn't find it entertaining or engaging in the least. Hawkins was fine, and I didn't find her grating, but the performance is kind of one-level...this seems like the kind of thing Saturday Night Live would cover in 5 minutes. I see where others might warm to it (although I don't get the LOVE for this film), but I find it minor Leigh.
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Postby flipp525 » Mon Mar 23, 2009 1:45 pm

I agree with Sabin -- the screenplay that exists behind the finished product is the work we’re judging here. I still have yet to hear a valid argument as to why this screenplay is any less original than any other nominee this year or any year, for that matter, because of the process in which it was developed. Have you ever heard of “the creative process”? It’s a different animal for every artist. Any writer can tell you that.

And what is it exactly about this film, and particularly this character, that brings such derision out of the woodwork, particularly from the veteran crowd. I find it simply enthralling.




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Postby Sabin » Mon Mar 23, 2009 1:28 pm

The category is Best Original Screenplay. I don't care how it's written but how it's played on the screen.
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Postby OscarGuy » Mon Mar 23, 2009 1:25 pm

I can understand the screenplay argument. While an outline of a story is still a story outline, Leigh is more deserving of recognition in the Best Director category for what he does. Ever since I saw the first discussion on how he made Secrets & Lies, I've found the technique extremely fascinating. He creates a rhythm and realism in his characters that doesn't seem stilted or jaded in the least. I have an affection for many of his characters. They seem like intriguing people. Yes, they are a bit out of the ordinary, but that's what makes his films feel like they are about real people. It's a difficult dynamic for sure and to not only find actors who are capable of doing what he wants, but getting them to gel together and come out of it with such strong films is a terrific feat. So, while I don't think Happy-Go-Lucky comes even close to Secrets & Lies in terms of genuine astonishment and quality for me, I admire what he does with it and enjoyed it as a nice little diversion even if I never figured out exactly what the movie was supposed to be about.
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Postby cam » Mon Mar 23, 2009 12:30 pm

Big Magilla wrote:It's funny but I don't recall any other film that has divided critical reaction along age lines as much as this film. The people who love this character and her movie are all under 35.

I'm not sure that you could prove that, Peter.

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Postby Uri » Mon Mar 23, 2009 3:45 am

Big Magilla wrote:It's funny but I don't recall any other film that has divided critical reaction along age lines as much as this film. The people who love this character and her movie are all under 35.

You've just made my day.

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Postby flipp525 » Sun Mar 22, 2009 10:26 pm

I think it's interesting the invective this film seems to bring out in people. It sort of just makes me love it that much more.

I agree with whoever below said that the Sally Hawkins snub will go down as one of the legendary snubs. I thought her performance was very clearly one of the year's best.
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Postby Big Magilla » Sun Mar 22, 2009 8:29 pm

In the documentary "Happy-In-Character" which accompanies the film on DVD, Leigh, Hawkins, Marsan and Alexis Zegerman explain Leigh's creative process which again undermines for me why this guy keeps winning writing awards when his screenplays are really just shells of plot points - all the acting is improvised.

His process is to meet with the actors separately, have them build their character's lives from birth, ask them what the character wanted to become when they were a child - Hawkins as Poppy wanted to become a nurse, then do something with animals, finally settled on teaching because that's what her sister wanted. Then they meet with the set designer and costume designer and talk about what their rooms would look like, what they would feel comfortable wearing. Marsan as Scott, for example, stopped growing emotionally around 18 or 19 so was comfortable wearing his hair and clothes in styles from the mid-80s.

Then he puts his actors together and they react as they would as themselves as the characters they've built within the confines of their very broad outlines. Poppy genuinely loves people, but as Leigh puts it, "like most of us with senses of humor she enjoys annoying the piss out of Scott who has none."

Because it's real people saying whatever pops into their heads within character, the characters are open to a broader interpretation than movies with deliberately drawn characters whose dialogue is scripted to present a particular intention.

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Postby Sabin » Sun Mar 22, 2009 6:38 pm

I'm saying that on the surface, that's what it appears. Poppy is at all times in the movie doing things to entertain herself. She may think that she's doing it for other people, but she's clearly not. The way in which she laughs incessantly...she's saying these things for her own benefit, and in the hopes that other people as well will find it funny. I don't care how the movie was sold. I know that I sure didn't see the trailer represented in the movie. I haven't seen Duplicity but I'm not going to assume it's a piece of crap because the trailer looks bad. Happy-Go-Lucky isn't some Celine and Julie-esque magical romp through subjective reality. It's a shrewd, realist character study.

I really don't see the issue here. The film is obviously critiquing her behavior with the penultimate scene. At what price do we make ourselves happy even under the guise of being at the service of others?
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Postby Mister Tee » Sun Mar 22, 2009 5:32 pm

Sabin wrote:
How this translates into wonderful sunny human being is beyond me;

She's not. She's made a choice to live this way and it's an interesting study of somebody who does everything she can to entertain herself.

But that's not how the movie was sold. The DVD copy, the coming attractions, and much of the film's release publicity presented her as if that last-scene quote was perfectly representative of her character. If you want to say all that material misrepresented Leigh's intention, fine. But many people (including here) appear to have taken it at face value.

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Postby Sabin » Sun Mar 22, 2009 4:07 pm

How this translates into wonderful sunny human being is beyond me;

She's not. She's made a choice to live this way and it's an interesting study of somebody who does everything she can to entertain herself.
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Postby Big Magilla » Sun Mar 22, 2009 2:52 pm

It's funny but I don't recall any other film that has divided critical reaction along age lines as much as this film. The people who love this character and her movie are all under 35.

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Postby cam » Sun Mar 22, 2009 2:24 pm

Mister Tee wrote:Which brings me to the character of Poppy. Everyone here seems to have bought into the "she's just someone who wants to bring a positive attitude into the world". I know that's what the film's publicity promoted (even my Netflix sleeve), and the trailer as well, by highlighting the film's near-last line. But that's not what I felt about her watching the film. Especially based on her first scene with the bookstore clerk, and her initial driving lesson, I thought, This is a person desperately craving attention who's not 1/10 as funny as she thinks she is. Honestly, what came to mind was the Ricky Gervais character on The Office. If I'd been trying to teach her something and she'd pulled on me what she pulled on Marsan, I'd have whammed her one (or prescribed Ritalin). How this translates into wonderful sunny human being is beyond me; .

We watched this film with great expectations but , unfortunately, after 50 minutes, we could no longer stand the Pollyanna(Poppy) character with that incessant giggle and smart-ass comments. *Made us NOT CARE what if anything happened to her.*
(The final sentence here is the one that makes or breaks a film for us. You have to CARE for the character.)




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