When You’re Happy and You Know It

Posted in Movies by NAN on 2009/01/30

Danai’s Visual Movie Review of Happy-Go-Lucky (2008) by Mike Leigh

The danger about this movie is that it glorifies a perspective that isn’t shared by everyone. When I decided to see it, I knew that it could be a struggle to accept an intensely optimistic character. Poppy (Sally Hawkins) is a perpetually high preschool teacher, and I couldn’t have tolerated her if not for her British accent. While I favor being sober, I gave her a chance to show me that maybe I can spare some space for tolerance.

She needs the rainbow in every outfit. She’s bipolar giddy except she doesn’t go to the other pole. She small-talks a bookstore attendant who obviously wants to be left alone. Her exercise is trampoline, and she can’t dig the anger in Flamenco. She puts a paper bag on her head to act as a chicken in school, and she just regrets not saying goodbye when somebody steals her bicycle. And then she meets Scott (Eddie Marsan), her driving instructor who looks at things in another way. To describe Poppy, he says:

You have no respect for order, you are arrogant, you are disruptive, and you celebrate chaos.

Yet she doesn’t apologise. This is where Poppy turns it around and says “Maybe you have a problem?” When asked about his personal life, Scott turns silent. In a way, Poppy was right. While Scott voices out aversion to the schooled left brain thinkers who become policemen, politicians, magistrate, and lawyers, he is a full-fledged abider himself. He is the paranoia toward speed cameras, the conspiracy theorist who puts things in outrageous orders but just let them be anyway.

Poppy, on the other hand, knows what she’s made of and knows that she’s made. She is a conscious choice. She loves her boots and how chicken fillets feel on her breasts. She’s goofy, but she’s sensual with her boyfriend too. She’s a party girl, but she has the sensitivity to talk with a demented hobo and to understand a bullied boy. At this point, I forgive her. I know I can’t be as nice, but I can accept her different emotional mechanism. Like they say, when one is extremely nervous, either the person trembles or laugh.


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