Starring: Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Mathieu Kassovitz
Director: Michael Haneke
Running Time: 107 mins
Happy End is a French film about a wealthy family who encounter a major crisis both in their personal lives and professional ventures, sending the household dynamic into chaos.
With his classic style of patient, quiet storytelling that turns seemingly normal events into intense personal crises, Michael Haneke has brought some brilliant films to the big screen over the years. Unfortunately, Happy End isn’t one of them, proving to be everything that Haneke’s films shouldn’t be – boring, inconsequential and repetitive – and fails entirely to provide the gripping intensity he’s so well known for.
Now, as acclaimed as his body of work is, there’s no denying that Haneke is somewhat of an acquired taste for general audiences. The brand of quiet and patient filmmaking that has won him so many plaudits is quite challenging for many of us who aren’t entirely used to the world of cinema as a supposed ‘high art’.
That’s not to say his films don’t deserve praise for a lack of mainstream appeal, and Haneke’s bold style is in fact one of the reasons he stands out so much, with his best films taking totally normal, harmless situations and injecting stunning drama and gripping tension where you would never expect it.
With that said, Happy End is the film that unfortunately lives up to more stereotypical expectations of Haneke’s style. It’s very quiet, very slow, and leaves a lot of its core drama up to the viewer to really engage with, but it unfortunately fails to bring that tension and underlying intrigue into the mix at the same time.
It’s a real shame, because with such great talent behind the camera and legendary actors like Isabelle Huppert and Jean-Louis Trintignant in leading roles, this should have been a fantastic watch.
However, Haneke goes overboard in his attempts to bring imperceived drama into the story with a tedious opening act, something that’s made all the more frustrating by an overstuffed ensemble cast, featuring too many characters with varying agendas that makes the film not only dull, but very confusing to follow.
The third act may bring a little more intrigue and drama to the table, with a striking final sequence that packs more of a punch than the entire hour and a half before it, but it still doesn’t make up for a film that spends far too long on silent, understated storytelling without building in real tension and intrigue, making it really difficult to engage with the film at any point throughout, and that’s why I’m giving Happy End a 5.8 overall.