A dark romantic comedy. Tom and Janet have been happily married for years. But a visit from a mysterious stranger leads to a dead body, a lot of questions, and a tense couples’ trip with friends who may not actually be friends at all.
There’s a married couple that I’ve known for over thirty years and everyone has the same perception of them – they’re perfect together. They complement each other in everything they do, there’s never been a hint of trouble between them and they support one another in whatever they take on. They have two wonderful kids, a comfortable home and a great many friends and the general consensus among all of us is that the couple in question never have had a fight. It’s impossible to think that there’s ever been a bit of animus between them.
Now common sense dictates that probably isn’t true, yet the perception of complete marital bliss between them is there. What happens behind closed doors, well that’s their business. A couple such as this exists in BenDavid Grabinski’s “Happily,” a pitch-black comedy that, in a “Twilight Zone”-like approach, puts the notion of marital bliss under the microscope. Initially quite funny, the laughs wane as the film progresses to expose a more nihilistic look at wedded bliss, suggesting that a prolonged period of toleration peppered with rare, brief moments of happiness is the norm where marriage is concerned. Needless to say, a movie for romantics, this is not.
Tom (Joel McHale) and Janet (Kerry Bishe) are the offending couple. They have to temerity to remain attracted to one another after being together for over seven years, still have incredible, satisfying sex, are considerate of each others’ needs and enjoy being married. Obviously, there’s something wrong with them and their friends are sick of them, so much so they uninvite them to a couple’s weekend getaway that had been arranged. Oddly enough, the day after they get this news, they are visited by a mysterious man named Goodman (Stephen Root). He has an envelope containing a check with many zeroes and a briefcase with two syringes. He explains to Tom and Janet that their relationship is a “malfunction” that can no longer be tolerated and that must each take an injection which will make them like normal people. The money is for their trouble.
It would be irresponsible to reveal any more but suffice it to say, the couple reject this offer in the strongest way possible and then, ironically, are reinvited to the couple’s weekend. Their arrival to the posh getaway with four other domestic pairs results in a social experiment meant to expose and exploit the minor flaws in their relationship. That the other couples – acerbic Val (Paul Scheer) and Karen (Natalie Zea), perky same-sex couple Maude (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) and Carla (Shannon Woodward), ever-tense Donald (Jon Daly) and Patricia (Natalie Morales), and mismatched Richard (Breckin Meyer) and Gretel (Charlyne Yi)- embrace the cynicism of the world and refuse to believe a loving relationship can exist rings true and results in some genuinely clever and relatable comic moments. The juxtaposition of their respective bickering to Tom and Janet’s contentment also generates a laugh or two, the chemistry between McHale and Bishe keepinp us firmly in their corner throughout.
It comes as no surprise that each couple has a secret that is revealed over this fateful weekend, which cuts to the theme of Grabinski’s film. The ability to accept our partner’s flaws and help them cope with them is the key to any successful relationship. That so many people cut and run before discovering this is the tragedy “Happily” gleefully underscores, reminding us that wedded bliss can exist. All it takes is a lot of hard work and a short memory.
Pam says: Check out my 3-Star review here: http://reelhonestreviews.com/a-delightfully-dark-comedy/