I watched "Happy-Go-Lucky" again last night, this time with the wife and daughters. My few reservations about the movie remain but I was taken more than ever with Eddie Marsan's terrific performance as the sour, teeth-gnashing driving instructor Scott -- the yin to Poppy's yang, the dark cloud in her silver lining. I still think the character betrays the limitations of director Mike Leigh's approach to moviemaking (he builds the script up from extended improvisational work with the actors). Scott is such a compendium of foul beliefs and conspiratorial paranoias that I never quite bought him as a person: He really is a product of an actor's workshop. Yet on this viewing, Marsan papered over the cracks of my disbelief, especially when he pops his cork toward the end and showers Poppy (Sally Hawkins) with a torrent of invective that proves how little he actually understands her. The expression on Scott's face is that of a little boy who can no longer hold in his sorrow at a world that doesn't play fair. He thinks he's raging when he's really keening.
The daughters picked this up, by the way, and bandied it about (Eliza: "He's such a creep." Natalie: "No, he isn't. He's a sad little man."). Other aspects of "Happy-Go-Lucky" came in for post-screening chatter as well, such as the subplot about the bully in Poppy's class and her encounter with the homeless man. It's a surprisingly rich movie for young adolescents if you don't mind a little British gutter-talk and one discreet prelude to a shag. I think Leigh had posed a new one for the girls: Is it possible to be truly happy in this world? And does that have something to do with being (and doing) good? You have to like the movies that take a while to sink in.
On a semi-related note, faithful reader Al Chase adores "Slumdog Millionaire" and has posted the response of an Indian-born friend, a US Army officer named Rajiv Srinivasan, to the movie on his blog. Thoughtful reading.
Finally, happy holidays to all this blog's constant readers. I'm off and won't be posting for a couple of weeks, part of which will be spent on a cruiseship with my wife's extended family. I have never been on a cruise before, and since my only knowledge of the experience comes from the stateroom scene in "A Night at the Opera" and reading the late David Foster Wallace's brilliant essay "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again" (linked here under its original Harper's title, "Shipping Out" -- this is essential reading, folks), I am properly terrified. In any event, the best of the season to you and yours. Here's to an interesting 2009.
About Movie Nation
ContributorsTy Burr is a film critic with The Boston Globe.
Mark Feeney is an arts writer for The Boston Globe.
Janice Page is movies editor for The Boston Globe.
Tom Russo is a regular correspondent for the Movies section and writes a weekly column on DVD releases.
Katie McLeod is Boston.com's features editor.
Rachel Raczka is a producer for Lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment at Boston.com.
Emily Wright is an Arts & Entertainment producer for Boston.com.
Take 2 reviews and podcast
Look for new reviews by Ty Burr and Wesley Morris at the end of each week in multiple formats.