The Happy Sad Presents Three-Dimensional Characters With an Excess of Plot Turns


The most revelatory, engaging aspect of director Rodney Evans’s The Happy Sad (adapted for the screen by Ken Urban, from his original play) is actually its least showy detail. The gay black couple who comprise half the tale’s quartet of bumbling lovers are neither tortured, scowling closet cases, nor wisecracking wannabe divas. They’re not wealthy, insufferable materialists, nor are they mouthpieces for flatly rendered political agendas. In short, they’re nothing like the cardboard figures normally trotted out in both mainstream and indie films (and TV) to rep black queer maleness. The audience is introduced to 29-year-old Marcus (LeRoy McClain) and 23-year-old Aaron (Charlie Barnett) the morning after they’ve had their first threesome. Though deeply in love, the duo are looking to jump-start their six-year relationship. Meanwhile, perpetually flustered schoolteacher Annie (Sorel Carradine) and her musician boyfriend, Stan (Cameron Scoggins), break up because Stan is suffocating Annie, who isn’t sure what she really wants. The cast is terrific—a uniformly perfect combination of eye candy and talent—and the script is filled with wonderfully raw, discomfiting conversations between each of the couples as they grapple with love that won’t conveniently dissipate when someone calls it quits. But Evans can’t steamroll all the glitches in Urban’s script, which is filled with too many contrived coincidences as it maneuvers the hetero Stan into Marcus’s bed, Annie into a lesbian affair with a co-worker, and Aaron into the position of best friend of the woman who Annie’s dumped lesbian lover falls for. Yes, it’s a bit much, but the cast—and Evans’s deft hand with them—makes it worth checking out.