REVIEW: Happy End

Review by Dustin Heller

Happy End is the new French drama from auteur filmmaker Michael Haneke.  Haneke is a two time Palme d’Or winner at the Cannes Film Festival with The White Ribbon in 2009 and Amour in 2012.  Happy End competed for the Palme d’Or at the 2017 edition of the festival, but it did not win.  The film stars Isabelle Huppert and Jean-Louis Trintignant, who both also starred as father/daughter in AmourHappy End isn’t a sequel to Amour, but rather a spiritual successor.  It is rated R for some sexual material and language.

Happy End follows the life of a bourgeois European family that is falling apart at the seams.  The patriarch of the family is stuck in a state of depression because of his dementia and his declining health.  His daughter runs the family’s construction business that recently had an accident that took a man’s life.  She is trying to keep the company afloat all while her son (and his alcohol addiction) is doing his best to bring it down.  The patriarch’s son is on his second marriage and having an affair with a friend of the family.  His 13-year-old daughter, who just recently caused her mother to overdose on sedatives, has moved in with him and his family.  The film is a snapshot into the lives of this family that brings new meaning to the term dysfunctional.

I’ll admit it, I’m an arthouse junkie who loves subtitles, and when a new Michael Haneke film is being released, my excitement is at a fever pitch.  The man is a true auteur and one of the best filmmakers working today.  That said, I just couldn’t get on board with Happy End.  The entire film felt discombobulated and disconnected to the audience.  On top of that, it is quite depressing without any real sense of hope or joy from any of the characters.  In light of this, none of the characters are worth investing in or rooting for because they’re so miserable.

Haneke is a fantastic storyteller, but this film definitely got away from him.  Even his choice to use modern technology in the storytelling wasn’t groundbreaking by any means and was quite dull. It felt like a 30-minute movie stretched out over an hour and 45 minutes.  Needless to say, Happy End didn’t leave me happy by the end.  A title obviously meant to be taken with tongue in cheek, even the diehard Haneke fans might want to wait for this one to hit Video On Demand.

Grade: D+

Happy End opens in Indianapolis on Friday, February 23