Sam Levinson‘s Another Happy Day, which has been on the film festival circuit since bowing last January at Sundance and which will open on 11.18, played last night at the Savannah Film Festival. It’s definitely not The Family Stone, as Levinson exclaimed during the q & a. And it has “Red Twitter Queen” Ellen Barkin delivering the most searing, over-the-waterfall performance of her life as one of the most sensitive and well-intentioned crazy-torpedo moms of all time.
Barkin and Levinson talked a bit after the film ended, and I was there in the second row.
Day is a black family comedy without much serenity or calm or closure to pass around. It has teeth and rage and drug abuse and all the rest of that good stuff that has fueled miserable family dramas going back to Eugene O’Neil‘s Long Day’s Journey Into Night and James Goldman‘s The Lion in Winter…but with cryptic laughs. Everyone is hurting, seething, crippled, screaming, cutting themselves, depressed, despairing…you name it.
As Katherine Hepburn‘s Eleanor of Acquitaine says in Winter, “What family doesn’t have its ups and downs?”
The laughs aren’t my idea of constant, but when they hit the mark they really hit the mark.
It’s about the mother of all dysfunctional family wedding parties (in the Saddam Hussein sense of the term), and particularly about Lynn (Barkin), a mom with an aching heart and a quivering lower lip with a pathological need to constantly express anguish and relive painful moments in her life, and if at all possible to goad others into dredging up their own bad business.
She sees herself as a battered victim and a hard-bitten survivor, and she has taken her lumps, for sure. But she’s made a fetish out of suffering, and she can’t seem to let it go.
Lynn isn’t exactly Mary Tyrone from Long Day’s Journey or Hepburn’s Eleanor, but she’s certainly a woman of similar frustrations and compulsions and long-simmering resentments.
I have to stop filing because I have a 5 pm plane to catch, but Barkin’s costars are quite the handful — Kate Bosworth, Ellen Burstyn, Thomas Haden Church, George Kennedy, Ezra Miller, Demi Moore, Michael Nardelli.
I’m supposed to speak to Barkin and Levinson sometime later this week so I’ll pick it up then.