"Indecipherable narrative and David Arquette are not a good combo"
SCREENED AT THE 2003 SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST FILM FESTIVAL: Halfway through the interesting yet aimless film Happy Here and Now a character tells a story with no particular ending, following the tale with the explanation “If there was a point, there wouldn’t be a story.”
Which turns out to be a rather telling statement, since this latest effort from cerebral writer/director Michael Almereyda has several points to make, but no story to enable them to be made.But that paradox may very well be what’s at the heart of this art film posing as a noir mystery. As the film’s many plot threads fail to intertwine, Happy Here and Now’s lack of coherence becomes a metaphor for how our culture’s increasing reliance on technology for interaction has taken away our ability to connect on an intimate, personal level.
Or, then again, that could merely be pseudo-intellectual posturing. For all the possible ideas that Happy Here and Now presents, examining the film afterwards is a much more rewarding experience than the film itself.
In fact, Happy Here and Now is a frequently painful viewing experience. Slow, cryptic and opaque, the movie unfurls on the streets of New Orleans in a dream-like, David Lynch universe.
The principle storyline revolves around a woman (Liane Balaban, in a sedate performance) who comes to Louisiana to find her missing sister with the help of former CIA agent Clarence Williams III. Also playing a part in the mystery are a former R & B legend turned bar owner (the late Ernie K-Doe as himself), a fireman (Karl Geary), an exterminator/wannabe filmmaker (David Arquette) and a young widow (Gloria Reuben).
The only clue is the missing woman’s computer, with is equipped with a program that allows the user to have live web chats while using the voice and face of someone else. How the technology works is as vague as the character’s motives and actions.
Almereyda, the director of the avant-garde vampire film Nadja and the modernized Hamlet starring Ethan Hawke, is obviously a very intelligent, challenging director, but his gifts don’t extend to storytelling.While Almereyda's attempt to make a movie that provokes an intellectual response is commendable, the irony is that, in a film about the lack of human connections and the alienation that results, Happy Here and Now only succeeds in alienating its audience.