Superman never made any money for saving the world from Solomon Grundy

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Not the one with Betty Hutton

Otis and I went to see Mike Leigh's Happy-Go-Lucky at the Crest last night. I had heard a rumor that Leigh made the film in response to the charge that he couldn't do anything that wasn't pessimistic. That story is likely apocryphal, and the film isn't that far a stretch from Leigh's often dark work (Vera Drake, All or Nothing, Career Girls) anyway.

As usual, Leigh gives us vividly drawn, real and rounded characters, moving through a detailed and authentic landscape as they deal with life's big and small challenges. What's different this time around is that the protagonist is neither beaten down nor worn out; the irrepressible Poppy is still tackling problems head-on, with a positive outlook and an optimistic perspective.

Poppy is a zen clown: always colorful and bright, even in a flamenco class, she has found her Way and sticks with it in the face of all adversity. And that way includes a lot of joy and laughter, as well as a willingness to accept people as they are while still expecting the best from them. While her unrelentingly sunny affect irritates some, that may be because it shines a light on their own dissatisfactions; a small matter, since Poppy will love them anyway.

In lesser hands, such a woman might come across as merely a naif, or at best, The Fool, but Sally Hawkins gives us a Poppy whose sanguine nature comes from wisdom, not inexperience. In her quiet moments, her eyes show the accumulated history of her experiences with things both good and bad, and we realize that her position is both a considered choice and a courageous one. Even when violence or meanness would be the easy way out, she sticks to her convictions. Poppy moved onto the upper tier of my heroes almost immediately.

I have to make a special note of Alexis Zegerman as Zoe,
Poppy's flatmate and devoted friend,
who projects a grounding, practical energy
that lets us see the power behind all Poppy's seeming airiness.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

For those that want to see the one with Betty (completely unrelated other than the title, of course), it was posted today on her website