A blog about movies and filmmaking.

Mirrors, signal, maneuver, En-ra-ha.

In comedy, Uncategorized on August 30, 2009 at 2:04 am

There aren’t many characters presented in movies that are seemingly eternally optimistic and inspirational to others, while also not being in some way “special”. There’s characters like Benjamin Button, Forrest Gump and Chauncey Gardener, who are all seemingly able to have a positive or non-cynical outlook on life. So, that’s what makes the main character of the movie HAPPY-GO-LUCKY so refreshing. Sallly Hawkins performance as “Poppy”, is a funny, eternally cheery and still completely realistic depiction of a person that’s not special, really, in any other way.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY starts with Poppy riding her bicycle through the streets of London, and parking it outside a book store. She goes inside, is ignored by the clerk – while continually trying to get some kind response from him. When she eventually leaves, she walks up to see her bicycle has been stolen. It’s her response here, that gives us an indication of who this person is. She laughs, smiles and says, “I didn’t even get to say goodbye.”

The movie follows Poppy through a number of different places. We see her at work – as a primary school teacher, who has to deal with a little boy that’s started hitting other kids. At home, we see her with her flatmate – Zoe, played by Alexis Zegerman – and her sister, Suzy (played by Kate O’Flynn) as they drink, talk naughty to each other and drink. Poppy taking Flamenco dance lessons, with a co-worker and finally Poppy’s experiences with her driving instructor, Scott (played by Eddie Marsan). Scott, who presents himself as a fascist instructor who strives to embed his mantra (used in the title of this post) and talking conspiracy and religious nut-baggery.

The movie, written and directed by Mike Leigh, is not as positive as the title might suggest it to be. There are familial problems, there’s the hints of child abuse, and Scott’s own inflammatory temper and as the movie goes on, his seeming obsession with Poppy. Leigh never gives Poppy an easy out, but she is also never really put through the paces. There’s one scene in particular, where it really just seemed kind of weird that Poppy would stay, and even as the situation gets very odd and looks like it could be going in a bad direction, in the end Poppy comes out unscathed. Which, there’s something to maybe the positivity of Poppy to inspire the good in others – even if they’re a crazy, homeless guy – or maybe just this one time she got lucky, instead of the worse happening.

And it is the other performers, and characters, that help to keep this movie from being over the top and syrupy sweet. We see Poppy’s sister Suzy, in a spat with her boyfriend. We meet Poppy’s other sister – who is married, pregnant and has a new house in the suburbs. There’s a moment where the sister starts scolding Poppy for not having a pension, a mortgage and not having had kids yet. This is seen through by the younger sister, as just the unhappiness of the sister that seemingly “has it all”. Zoe, who has been Poppy’s roommate for a decade, we don’t get to see much of her life apart from Poppy; but we get that she’s not quite as happy with her life and romantic prospects, as Poppy is. Even the Flamenco instructor seems to be focussing her energies into dance, instead of trying to cope with her own problems – which reveal themselves, hilariously.

But, the breakout character – and performance, other than Hawkins’ – is Eddie Marsan’s Scott. There is a repression and loneliness to Scott. He’s someone that seems to like what he’s doing, but at the same time has a high – if not unreasonable – standards for his students. He continually gets very upset by the fact that Poppy wears boots with heels when driving. He emphatically repeats his mantra of, “en-ra-ha, en-ra-ha,” and in a moment that left me (and Poppy) taken-aback; while stopped at an intersection two black men ride past on bicycles and Scott says, “lock your doors”. Poppy looks at him and says, “I can’t believe you said that.” To which Scott tells her that there’s more than one, so lock the doors. Then there’s their final confrontation. Scott, reveals that he’s been trying to impress Poppy and feels that she’s been flaunting her body to him (by wearing the boots) and his misinterpretation in things that she said.

The final moment of the movie, we see that there’s not been any real change to our main character. She didn’t learn that she can’t be funny all the time, or that sometimes optimism is a pain in the ass, or even that her fashion sense is pretty awful. Instead, she’s rowing a boat in the middle of a pond with her roommate, and cracking jokes and just happy with life. And yeah, by the end of the movie, she’s even got a love life…

So, while it’s not a message movie, or even a slap-stick comedy, I have to say I really liked HAPPY-GO-LUCKY and the character that it introduced me to. Poppy is a fun girl that loves life, can see the upside to just about anything and is generally someone that we could all use in our lives, to show us it’s not all serious or as important as we can make things out to be.

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  1. i take dance lessons these days to become an expert in samba and rumba`

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