The story of an incredibly loving couple receiving hate from all sides for “being too perfect” sounds more like a set-up for a passable rom-com with eye-candy leads and cutesy couple moments than for a film filled with thrills and chills...
...Yet, after an unpredictable encounter with a stranger, writer-director BenDavid Grabinski manages to display large amounts of emotion, comedy, and tension-filled drama all from seemingly mundane experiences. Part Agatha Christie novel and part Twilight Zone, Happily explores the troubles of compatible couples and the damaging behavior seen often in adult friendships.
In the opening scene, Tom (Joel McHale, Community) and Janet (Kerry Bishé, Halt and Catch Fire) catch eyes across the room at a party and moments later they are screwing each other’s brains out in the upstairs bathroom. Normally such an occurrence would cause gossip and giggles among the other party goers, but the truth is…everyone is really tired of this always happening. Married for 14 years and this couple still cannot keep their hands off each other. From hugs and hand holding to a quick grope at their friend’s house, Tom and Janet love physical displays of affection both public and private. Wonderful for the two of them. Not so pleasant for everyone who must observe the non-stop love fest.
Friends call them Martians for always being so ridiculously happy, but the defect might actually be earthlier. One morning a strange man (Stephen Root, Office Space) comes to the door and explains that their perfect happiness is the result of a malfunction. He demands they take a serum which will fix it and return Tom and Janet to “normal” and explains that there is no use fighting the decision. Not wanting to end the dream, Janet fights back. I mean, who wouldn’t kill for good sex?
After hiding the evidence and taking a moment to process the murder, Tom and Janet start to believe their friends set them up with an elaborate prank. So, the pair decides to join their devious friends on a couples’ retreat and hope no one finds out the love birds are now murderers. Unfortunately, the aptly named Karen (Natalie Zea, The Unicorn) and husband Val (Paul Scheer, The League) recently revealed that no one likes Tom and Janet, so they do not really get a warm welcome from the other couples despite all of them being friends for years.
To plan the perfect getaway, Patricia (Natalie Morales) found a very impressive Airbnb with her husband Don Don (Jon Daly), so they are the first to greet Tom and Janet when they arrive. Later, Karen and Val, along with Maude (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) and her wife Carla (Shannon Woodward), and the moody Richard (Breckin Meyer) and his new girlfriend Gretel (Charlyne Yi) show up, bringing lots of booze, and even more drama. Out of the five couples, four wear black and grey; the murdersome twosome sport bright colors. Wearing red and yellow respectively, Tom and Janet stand out among their friends and the drab interior of their Airbnb. Creating a stronger visual on McHale and Bishé allows them to really showcase their great chemistry, both physically and comically. In fact, all the couples perform fairly well in their relationships, especially Patricia and Don Don, who steal a couple of scenes.
Suspense builds gradually as the murder becomes harder to conceal and further difficulties arise because apparently this party was B.Y.O.S (Bring Your Own Secrets). Everyone present (including the house) has something to hide. Casting a thriller with all comedians might seem like a bold role for a directorial debut, but the comedic notes serve as a contrast for the tension, giving all the reveals more of a punch.
At first the film will appear as a fun romantic comedy with a murderish twist, but Grabinski keeps the turns coming and adds one mystery on top of another. Fans of the British tv show Inside No.9 will appreciate the revealing of secrets as humans force interactions to the point of emotional and moral destruction. Murder, mystery, and scandals (galore), but always with a bit of humor to let all the talented comedians feel at home.
Happily comes to select theaters, VOD and digital from Saban Films March 19th.
By Amylou Ahava
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