Seattle Film Fest 2011: “Happy, Happy,” Reviewed

Seattle Film Fest 2011: “Happy, Happy,” Reviewed (photo)

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Not to paint the good people of Norway with the same brush, but if the country’s recent films are any indication, the problem of sexual dissatisfaction amongst women is making it frostier for some in the country than the usual climate in winter. Only weeks ago at the Tribeca Film Fest, Jannicke Systad Jacobsen’s “Turn Me On, Goddammit” won a screenplay prize for the story of a young woman whose openness about her horniness leads her to be ostracized from her small village, and then there’s “Happy, Happy,” Anne Sewitsky’s Sundance winner which contrary to its title deals with the discontent of two married couples in Norwegian wilderness and in particular, the sexual awakening of Kaja, a cheery housewife who, upon tiring of her husband’s rejection of her advances, winds up in the arms of another.

Although the logline may sound like it may come from the Ingmar Bergman wing of Scandinavian cinema, “Happy, Happy” leans more towards the Aki Kaurismaki corner, punctuated with musical interludes from a quartet of vocalists singing American gospel music and dispatching a gentle sense of humor throughout even if what’s happened to poor, naïve Kaja is quite tragic. A foster child who married too young after high school, Kaja is stuck in a loveless marriage to a husband (Joaquin Rafaelsen) far more interested in hunting moose and a young son who clearly prefers his pa’s company when he’s not torturing the newly arrived adopted black child of Elisabeth (Maibritt Saerens) and Sigve (Henrik Rafaelsen), the couple that’s moved in next door from the big city.

Kaja clearly admires the couple’s sophistication — upon discovering Elisabeth is an attorney, she asks in awe, “Isn’t that hard?” But she’s far more taken with the excitement they bring since her own enthusiasm has waned significantly with a family that rarely speaks to her about anything. In fact, they even have a game in the morning to drive her out of the house by staring at her intently. It’s actually during a nighttime game with Elisabeth and Sigve where Kaja’s able to exact some small revenge on her husband, confessing during an after-dinner “Couples Game” that she hasn’t had sex in a year, which combined with Elisabeth and Sigve’s admission that they’d accept their partner having an affair, sets off an interesting chain of events for both pairs.

HappyHappy2_05232011.jpgEven without the unexpected jolts of the brightly-attired men’s chorus that pops up periodically, “Happy, Happy” shines when its lead Agnes Kittelsen is on screen. As Kaja, she’d be hard to dislike as an overeager woman who simply let a bad choice metastasize into a life she only now realizes she doesn’t want, but to play the role with a dimmer switch as the light slowly drains from her eyes is much more of an accomplishment than one would think.

Yet even as Kittelsen is allowed the room to dial down her performance, Sewitsky doesn’t exactly do herself the same favor as the film makes a sharp right turn from light comedy in the first half to a more serious relationship drama in the second when infidelity rears its ugly head while trying to keep some of the more lighthearted elements in place. Instead of adding a sense of realism, the tonal shift takes something away from the loose, entertaining vibe that’s effortlessly established from the beginning, making a running gag involving Kaja’s son acting as a slavemaster to Elizabeth and Sigve’s adopted child deeply troubling, especially when there’s no real payoff, and the film’s resolution stumbles towards poignancy, though it seems as though Sewitsky felt the need to say something important to counterbalance the film’s silliness.

Cultural differences may contribute to the film’s feeling of unevenness as it travels abroad, but it’s interesting to note that both “Happy, Happy” and the aforementioned “Turn Me On, Goddammit” were directed by first-time directors who may overcompensate with quirk to sneak in some genuinely provocative heroines who take control over their own destiny. In both cases, it’s arguable that the filmmakers share the confidence issues of their protagonists, a product of inexperience and wispy plotting, though likewise, each claims a small victory in simply breaking away from the pack. Clearly, coming out of the cold means more than just the snow outside in “Happy, Happy” and the warmth of Sewitsky’s debut drifts in as a welcome breeze.

“Happy, Happy” currently does not have U.S. distribution. It will play the Seattle Film Festival tonight at 8:30.

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.


IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines


The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.


Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.


A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.


Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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