What does it mean to be happy? Isn't it funny how happy people never seem to have to ask? It irritates me a little bit when people think that finding happiness is like finding the prize at the bottom of a box of Cracker Jacks. Why don't you just learn to enjoy your caramel corn treat and see what happens?On paper, I should have loved this movie, so I'm not quite sure why I didn't. This is another of those many lives randomly intersecting affairs, which means that we get sketches of many characters rather than a full portrait of one or two. These lives all revolve around the question at hand, the one about happiness, offering possible answers. We learn this when the word "happy" is used 53 times in the first five minutes. It wouldn't have affected me except that the word starts to sound funny if you repeat it a lot. Try it and see.
Alan Arkin plays a man who thought a successful career would make him happy. As he languishes in insurance company middle management, having lost his wife and son to his goals, he takes his sour mood out on the one guy he knows who really is happy and fires him. He does redeem himself in this by anonymously getting the guy other employment, but it doesn't change the fact that he is alone and lonely.
Matthew McConaughey plays a lawyer who is happy, because he's never had a reason not to be. He comes from money, he works for the District Attorney's office, he wins his cases. Then something happens that doesn't actually change his life but his perception of himself within it.
Clea DuVall is a maid who cleans house for former "Caroline in the City" castmates. She is happy, because she lives on her own and takes pride in doing her job well. Her world and her outlook are turned upside down by an accident, which claims her health and questions her resilience.
John Turturro is a physics professor who lets an attempted robbery shake up his life. His lesson to learn is that entropy really is irreversible. Maybe inertia wouldn't have been so bad.
The performances, as you can imagine, are universally amazing, but you don't get to stick with anyone long enough to build up any real feeling for them. I just didn't think the things people were saying or realizing were all that profound or poetic. I watched, but I wasn't moved.
I did learn that painting an entire apartment kelly green is not a great idea. It didn't look very good. (But, the reason for it was worthwhile, in the end.)Next time, let's talk about something else.