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When Mamie Toll was 17, she had a brief fling with her brand new English
stepbrother, Charley Peppitone. Mamie got pregnant, and went off to
Phoenix to have an abortion. That was the end of their semi-incestuous
tryst, but Mamie and Charley stayed close. Fast-forward a couple of
decades, and Mamie's an abortion clinic counselor with a massage
therapist boyfriend named Javier (hence the double entendre of the
film's title). She has a deep dark secret that she's been hoarding all
to herself -- until one day, a scraggly-haired budding filmmaker arrives
at her doorstep, informing her that he knows what she's hiding. With
this tidbit of info to extort her, he convinces Mamie to help him make a
documentary that'll get him into film school. Charley, meanwhile, now
runs what's left of his late father's restaurant chain empire. He's long
since come out of the closet, and shares a home with his boyfriend Gil.
Charley has his own intrigue to deal with of late: he's started to think
that he and Gil's good friends, a lesbian couple, may have lied about
deciding not to us Gil's donated sperm to conceive their child. The kid,
Charley insists, looks exactly like Gil; Gil's skeptical, but slightly
tickled by the idea, and Charley sets out to prove his suspicions. In
the film's third storyline, Otis is a misfit loner who works in
Charley's restaurant. He's the only son of a very, very wealthy single
dad; he plays drums in a band, though his bandmates only really tolerate
him because they like practicing at his swank pad. During a karaoke
night at the restaurant, Otis watches a girl named Jude get up on stage;
she has a great voice, and as it turns out, his band is in need of a new
singer. Otis asks her to join the band -- but ends up getting more than
he bargained for as she quickly works her way into other aspects of his
I was never a huge fan of Lisa Kudrow's dim but supposedly lovable
Phoebe character on Friends. Far more interesting was how Kudrow
also played Phoebe's equally out-of-it but much less pleasant twin
sister Ursula, a character that occasionally turned up on Mad about
You. Alone, each character was kind of a cardboard cutout but taken
in conjunction, there was the hint that Kudrow might actually be kind of
an interesting actress. Indeed, her ability to blend blitheness and
bitterness has made Kudrow one of the more intriguing former-Friends in
big screen efforts: She's the one who doesn't seem to be trying way too
hard to be adorable. And in Don Roos' subtly satisfying Happy Endings,
in particular, Kudrow's ability to combine prickliness with
vulnerability is put to excellent use. (Roos and Kudrow seem a good
match; she also appeared in his debut film, The Opposite of Sex.)
Kudrow's Mamie keeps her feelings too close to her heart and wears a
perpetually sour expression on her face; she's not terribly nice, at
least not in the superficial way. And that's okay; her seeming
unlikeability is what makes her compelling, and when you do find
yourself kind of liking her, it comes as a welcome surprise. Happy
Endings actually offers all sort of nice surprises, both in the
great casting -- including the normally lovable Maggie Gyllenhaal as
manipulative Jude, to the generally repugnant Tom Arnold as Otis'
good-guy dad -- and in the quirky plot (though some of the storylines
work better than others). Bad folks aren't necessarily redeemed;
families aren't joyfully reunited; transgressions aren't necessarily
forgiven; people connect and disconnect again. Roos' version of happily
ever after always seems to have an asterisk at the end of it. Which
makes it exactly the sort of happy ending that the cynical among us can
actually buy into.
by Yee-Fan Sun
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