DVD Review: “Happy-Go-Lucky”
Whether he is exploring Gilbert and Sullivan’s creation of “The Mikado” or following a World War II-era abortion provider, Mike Leigh packs his films with wonderful improvisational actors. The result is a bracing realism once the improvised dialogue is honed to a loose script, and this is especially true of “Happy-Go-Lucky,” a funny and poignant character study of a woman who always looks on the bright side of life.
Sally Hawkins should have been recognized with an Oscar nomination for Poppy, a grade school teacher with an endless capacity for good vibes. While Poppy seems sealed in a bubble of cheer, the rest of the world is less sunny. When Scott (Eddie Marsan), the bilious counterpoint to her positivity, becomes her driving instructor, Poppy doesn’t quite know what to make of this human wave of anger, but even Scott’s hate storm cannot obscure Poppy’s sunshine.
Leigh’s naturalistic style is well-suited to following Poppy’s good times, whether it’s uproarious evenings at the pub or mornings at school, caring for a troubled student and hitting it off with a school psychologist. Some subplots are just loose ends, but the dramatic centerpiece is the hilarious and unsettling relationship between Poppy and Scott. Hopefully, “Happy-Go-Lucky” will not be the last time Leigh puts Hawkins and Marsan together — their characters’ chemistry is strictly oil and water, but the actors mix it up beautifully.
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