Get Happy‘s oppressive, dainty-pop soundtrack includes ukulele and toy piano. So the film is twee and annoying, but it’s also self-aware enough to label a character as a “manic pixie dream girl” and to have another provide a lengthy taxonomic description.
It’s ironic and cynical while also aspiring to wisdom and sincerity, toggling between those modes but never picking a lane until the very end. Director Manoj Annadurai’s scenes are unartful in their staging, featuring actors who don’t seem entirely present, weaknesses magnified by Tom Shipley’s thuddingly obvious script.
Charlie (Chris Riggi), a depressive, falls in love with Holly (Lauren Sweetser), the alleged MPDG whose dialogue, rather than being quirky or “manic,” actually consists of the gauzy nonsense screenwriters give to magical old ladies in coming-of-age films, all “living” and “loving” and “Life is yours for the choosing. Happiness is a choice.” After giving a long, sincere speech about choosing happiness, she’s hit by an SUV and killed as a kind of dumb punchline. To pull himself together, Charlie embraces her philosophy and writes a book about it. Troubled by this forced happiness, his best friend Bob (Adam LaVorgna) attempts to sabotage Charlie’s new perspective.
Shipley seems to want to subvert the misogynistic MPDG stereotype, but he fails to include any details about the interests, backgrounds, aspirations, or motivations of the non-manic female characters. They just react to, and talk about, the men. Charlie’s epiphany — and you should prepare yourself for how transformative and mind-blowing this is — is that you have to embrace sadness in order to understand happiness.
Directed by Manoj Annadurai
Opens January 15, Cinema Village