Welcome to the Cul-de-sac

In the final scene, Joy raises a glass and toasts: "Where there's life, there's hope." Her sentiment clanks to the floor, a leaden non sequitur. What I like to think of as Happiness's happy ending only emphasizes how far most of his characters are from feeling satisfied. The pleasure of this film arises from Solondz's anger and bravery--his and his actors' willingness to stew in shame and awkwardness so that we, the audience, feel recognized in our shame and awkwardness. Recognized, yes, and challenged to live more consciously. "I know you hurt, too," one character tells another. It isn't hope, but maybe it's the best we can do.

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