Happy Go Lucky

Mister Tee
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Postby Mister Tee » Mon Mar 16, 2009 8:58 pm

flipp525 wrote:I don't think the homeless man doesn't frighten her in that scene. In fact, I think she's at times quite frightened by the encounter, yet she keeps pushing him and pushing him against anyone else's better judgment. Her response to fright was somehow to push through it, it seemed to me.

And clearly she doesn't walk around in some exalted, beatific grace (her car gets stolen, she's being stalked by a creepy driving instructor, the dance instructor doesn't warm up to her instantly --

It's not that she wouldn't fear the homeless guy -- it's that he doesn't do anything to provoke her fear. He never really takes an aggressive step toward her, and certainly not a swing. I've had more disquieting encounters in NY when I was minding my own business. It makes the scene feel more enchanted than visceral.

Similarly, with Marsan -- yeah, he yells at her, but he never displays the slightest physical violence, even when she takes the provocative step of grabbing his keys. And neither she nor Leigh seem to imagine such a response would be conceivable. It would have been a totally different scene/movie if he had bloodied her nose (and his barely-beneath-the-surface rage would seem to be enough to bring about such an act).

The dance instructor gives her a dirty look for clomping across the floor? I get reactions like that most every day.

Eric, I'd be interested in hearing further what you think deleting Marsan's character would do to the film. It was honestly the only thread that kept me in kind of a grip, but I'm open to knowing what you think could substitute, or how the structure could be altered to make different points.

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Postby The Original BJ » Mon Mar 16, 2009 3:00 pm

Mister Tee wrote:I had no idea what Leigh wanted me to feel about all this. What were those two hours about?

This issue is what prevents me from warming to Happy-Go-Lucky a bit more than some. I think the film's insights are interesting, but ultimately don't coalesce into as concise a statement as I'd want them to.

I generally agree, Tee, about Hawkins's critical prize sweep -- I thought a number of actresses were at or approached her level -- though her subsequent Oscar snub made me a lot more sympathetic to her critical dominance.

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Postby flipp525 » Mon Mar 16, 2009 2:26 pm

Mister Tee wrote:A sense underlined by the scene with the homeless guy. The fact that he never seems to frighten her -- not giving a hint of going medieval on her -- makes me feel Leigh wants you to accept that she exists in some state of exalted grace protecting her from harm. This is not to say such a character as Poppy isn't interesting. There'd be plenty to explore in the character I saw. But if that simplified explanation for her is all that the movie's offering, I have to say no sale.

I don't think the homeless man doesn't frighten her in that scene. In fact, I think she's at times quite frightened by the encounter, yet she keeps pushing him and pushing him against anyone else's better judgment. Her response to fright was somehow to push through it, it seemed to me.

And clearly she doesn't walk around in some exalted, beatific grace (her car gets stolen, she's being stalked by a creepy driving instructor, the dance instructor doesn't warm up to her instantly -- not-so-great things do happen to her). And against her own ability to control them, there are aspects of her personality that turn people off from her and I didn’t feel like the film was shying away from showing us that at several points.
It's the way that she handled the malice that came her way which seemed to make her such an original character and one that, for me, did experience some sort of change by the end of the film.




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Postby Eric » Mon Mar 16, 2009 2:13 pm

Mister Tee wrote:But if that simplified explanation for her is all that the movie's offering, I have to say no sale.

I think the movie is a bit more complex about what's at stake in terms of her character than just that, but I almost feel the movie takes the easy way out by boiling everything down into a thesis-antithesis situation. I daresay the movie might have been stronger without the presence of an Eddie Marsan, great though his performance is.

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Postby Mister Tee » Mon Mar 16, 2009 1:41 pm

People seem to be discussing this in various places -- and in rather heated terms. I'll put my impressions here.

I didn't have the strong reactions many of you appear to have had, negatively or positively. Part of this is my general feeling that Mike Leigh's films (Vera Drake excepted) are too half-hearted to really evoke outsize response. He frequently creates episodic narratives that don't build enough for me to become truly engaged in them. Topsy Turvy would be the epitome of this trait: it had a lot of scenes that were, individually, interesting, but they failed to connect to one another -- stories/relationships were raised, then cast aside. It was as if the script had been written by the Guy Pearce character in Menento. Even as late as the final scene in the film, Gilbert and his wife had a confrontation that came from absolutely nowhere. It was a fascinating set-to, but, that late in the game, what could it mean? There's something to be said for structure, and narrative pay-offs.

I had something of a similar reaction even to the clear best scene in Happy Go Lucky -- Marsan's inappropriate but somehow understandable blow-up near the end. It was powerful, and it did have at least a connection to scenes that had preceded it...but in the end I wasn't sure what I was supposed to take from it. It felt climactic, but not a fitting climax for the full two hours that had preceded it. because, apart from the Marsan thread, the rest of the film was as episodic as Topsy Turvy -- the main character just bounced along, mostly oblivious to others, showing no self-insight. And, though she showed some reaction (at last!) when confronted with Marsan's unseemly rage, a scene later in the rowboat she seemed back in her bubble. I had no idea what Leigh wanted me to feel about all this. What were those two hours about?

Which brings me to the character of Poppy. Everyone here seems to have bought into the "she's just someone who wants to bring a positive attitude into the world". I know that's what the film's publicity promoted (even my Netflix sleeve), and the trailer as well, by highlighting the film's near-last line. But that's not what I felt about her watching the film. Especially based on her first scene with the bookstore clerk, and her initial driving lesson, I thought, This is a person desperately craving attention who's not 1/10 as funny as she thinks she is. Honestly, what came to mind was the Ricky Gervais character on The Office. If I'd been trying to teach her something and she'd pulled on me what she pulled on Marsan, I'd have whammed her one (or prescribed Ritalin). How this translates into wonderful sunny human being is beyond me; it's close to the sentimentalization of mental patients we saw during the flower-child era. A sense underlined by the scene with the homeless guy. The fact that he never seems to frighten her -- not giving a hint of going medieval on her -- makes me feel Leigh wants you to accept that she exists in some state of exalted grace protecting her from harm. This is not to say such a character as Poppy isn't interesting. There'd be plenty to explore in the character I saw. But if that simplified explanation for her is all that the movie's offering, I have to say no sale.

I can't say I'm surprised Hawkins won some critics' awards. It's a dominant role, a relatively original one, and Mike Leigh's actresses have been well-rewarded in the past. But it baffles me that, in a decent year for actresses, all the reputable critics' groups came down on her side. 2008 was a better year than her clean-sweep would suggest.

Marsan was exceptional, and clearly merited a spot in the supporting actor ranks.

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Postby OscarGuy » Sun Feb 08, 2009 11:49 pm

nope. her riding her bicycle was done over in tandem with the opening credits. you didn't miss anything.
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Postby Movielover » Sun Feb 08, 2009 11:19 pm

Can someone help me out with this movie?

I absolutely loved it... but at the end what was it about? I mean it was funny to sit through and the acting was great - but what was it Leigh was trying to say about society? That we sometimes often accidentally give off the wrong signals and aren't mindful of the people we hurt?

Also, what happens at the very beginning? I walked in about 1 minute late and I just saw her riding on her bike to the store - was there something I missed?


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