Lisa Kudrow, Laura Dern, Tom Arnold. A diverse group of mostly middle-class Americans experience a number of emotional ups and downs in their flawed yet realistic lives, each loosely connected to each other through a restaurant. A witty look at love, family and life. 2005/color/128 min/R/widescreen.
"It's a comedy, sort of," a title card announces at the start of Happy Endings
--just after Mamie (Lisa Kudrow) has been hit by a car. So it is, but talk about an unhappy beginning! Never fear, writer/director Don Roos will fulfill the promise of that title in several unexpected ways. The story then flashes back to 1983 for Mamie's life-altering encounter with her stepbrother. Mamie and Charley (Steve Coogan) will struggle with its consequences for the rest of the film. Does her teen pregnancy explain the fact that she became an abortion counselor or that he came out of the closet? Roos doesn't say, but nor does he judge. He loves his characters--foibles and all--in his ambitious, Altman-esque follow-up to the acerbic, yet heartfelt The Opposite of Sex
. As before, Kudrow is the center around which the other plotlines revolve (and her uptight, yet likable Mamie couldn't resemble TVs Phoebe less). In the end, though, Maggie Gyllenhaal's seductive Jude and Tom Arnold's sensitive Frank are Roos' most inspired creations. Their relationship is one of contemporary cinema's oddest and most touching. The happy ending for one will be real, the other imaginary, but everyone will earn the one they get. --Kathleen C. Fennessy