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Jayne (Parker Posey) and Laura (Demi Moore) are about to take on the first man they just might not be able to handle: their father Joe (Rip Torn). Dutiful daughters returning to the house they grew up in, Jayne and Laura are forced to take a closer look at their own not-so-perfect lives. Laura suspects that Joe needs full-time care, but Jayne refuses to believe that their fathers condition is serious. Jaynes compulsion to escape reality only increases Lauras attempts to yank her back down to earth. Meanwhile, Joe still sings and plays the blues on his prized guitar, and the lively widower even has a new ladyfriend, shameless and sassy Shelly (Ellen Barkin). Tensions flare as Joes senility increases and the close sisters must also juggle their own very different lives but their adventures back home are not without merriment, mischief and even a little childhood magic.
Parker Posey and Demi Moore prove inspired casting as troubled sisters in Happy Tears. Posey (all quirks and neuroses) plays Jayne, the sister who married the wealthy but unstable son of a famous artist and is now enveloped in a bubble of money; Moore (half woman warrior, half earth mother) plays Laura, the sister who isn't rich and who has ended up taking care of their increasingly erratic father, Joe (Rip Torn, Men in Black, The Larry Sanders Show), and who is managing--just barely--not to resent Jayne for the difference in their lives. But Joe is slipping into dementia and giving away money to a needy addict named Shelly (Ellen Barkin, Ocean's Thirteen, Sea of Love), so Jayne comes back home to decide with Laura what to do. Happy Tears is a peculiar yet vivid movie; the naturalistic surface of its domestic drama is punctured with odd moments of surrealism, such as when Jayne hallucinates that a boot salesman has turned into a vulture. The plot wanders, the characters are explored unevenly, yet moment to moment Happy Tears holds you by virtue of a surprising honesty. Jayne, Laura, Joe, and Shelly feel--despite a bit of hamminess in the performances--like real people, with jagged edges that can't be ignored or explained away. --Bret Fetzer
Stills from Happy Tears (Click for larger image)
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