Happy Here And Now

on December 14, 2005 by Jon Alon Walz
An experimental and challenging film of themes, desires and thoughts rather than traditional plot, “Happy Here and How,” written and directed by Michael Almereyda (best know recently for the 2000 version of “Hamlet” with Ethan Hawke), is a tiny film with big ideas.

Amelia (Laine Balaban) arrives in New Orleans to continue the search for her lost sister. Moving in with Aunt Muriel (Ally Sheedy in a limited role), Amelia takes to the dark underground of the city in search of any clue or any person who might be of assistance. Finding a burned-out P.I. and her sister's old computer, she is able to piece together some of the last conversations--actually more like futuristic instant messages wherein the two participants can stick probes to their heads and talk in “character” to the other. Discovering that her last communiqué was with some guy in Spain (David Arquette), Amelia tries to contact him, pretending, via use of the probes, to be her sister. Discovering that the Spanish guy is a local firefighter harboring an obsession for scientist Nikola Tesla doesn't really help much, but it sends the film into a surreal, philosophical plane that continues to the end.

Using themes of fire and gravity, voodoo and science fiction, Almereyda is quite successful in creating an environment wherein themes of connection and loss as well as the power of the mind over the power of action seem important. But this does not necessarily translate into a wonderful experience in the cinema.

The filmmaker does not have a strong point of view into this odd collection of characters and random circumstances, leaving almost everything up to the audience for interpretation. While technically brilliant and gorgeous to watch, “Happy Here and Now” feels as unfocused and uneven as it is ambitious and intellectually frustrating. Starring David Arquette, Laine Balaban, Ally Sheedy and Gloria Reuben. Directed and written by Michael Almereyda. Produced by Anthony Katagas and Callum Greene. An IFC release. Drama. Not yet rated. Running time: 96 min.

Tags: David Arquette, Laine Balaban, Ally Sheedy, Gloria Reuben, Michael Almereyda, Anthony Katagas, Callum Greene, An IFC release, Drama, voodoo, science fiction, environment, power, experience, experimental

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