DVD Review
by Kevin Carr

    MOVIE: **1/2 (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5 stars)

    Sally Hawkins as POPPY
    Eddie Marsan as SCOTT
    Alexis Zegerman as ZOE
    Sylvestra Le Touzel as HEATHER

    Rated R
    Studio: Miramax

    Directed by: Mike Leigh

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Poppy (Sally Hawkins) is a free-spirited, eternally cheerful schoolteacher living in London. Even when life throws her a curve ball with her job, her friends or her love life, Poppy manages to keep an optimistic cheer. When she signs up for driving lessons with a cantankerous and cranky instructor, her optimism is challenged.

At the end of 2008, a lot of noise had been made about “Happy-Go-Lucky,” namely for Sally Hawkins’ performance as Poppy. She was nominated for many awards, including the Golden Globe (which she won) and an Oscar (which she didn’t win).

Having missed the film in its initial release, I had a chance to review it at home with an awards screener DVD. Amid the wash of other award movies on screener discs, I had a chance to at least enjoy Sally Hawkins’ bubbly performance.

Hawkins is easily the best thing in this movie. She’s a bright light in an otherwise rather dreary film. Pulling a close second to Hawkins is Eddie Marsan as the cranky driving instructor. His internal rage is fun to watch at times, and the inevitable powder keg of he and Poppy in the car’s steel prison offers a nice dose of comedy.

There’s a local critic colleague of mine who simply adores Mike Leigh’s work. In fact, put any film from any other director against even Mike Leigh’s worst film, and still Leigh would win in this guy’s book. For him, “Happy-Go-Lucky” was probably the greatest movie of 2008. I don’t share his sentiment. It’s not that Mike Leigh didn’t make a good movie. He made a fantastic character drama. I just didn’t like it that much.

Even when I saw the award screener this past winter, I didn’t see what the big deal was about the movie. At least “Frost/Nixon,” which was an art-house character drama, had more pizzazz to it.

While Sally Hawkins turns out an award-worthy performance as Poppy, I quickly became bored with her life and all the turmoil surrounding it. I just got disinterested with the character’s life challenges. In the end (or rather, in the middle), it felt like I was slumming through my afternoon, spending time with ho-hum people in North London. I suppose that was the point, but it’s not my cup of tea.

The “Happy-Go-Lucky” DVD comes with an audio commentary by Mike Leigh, along with two featurettes: “Behind the Wheel of Happy-Go-Lucky” and “Happy-In-Character.”

Film critics who looooooove Mike Leigh.

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