Happy End (2017)
Dir: Michael Haneke | Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Jean-louis Trintignant, Toby Jones, Mathieu Kassovitz, Fantine Harduin Drama | 110min
HAPPY END is Michael Haneke’s satirical exploration of a rich family of industrialists whose dysfunctional daily lives become linked to the turbulent ongoing immigration nightmare that is Calais, thanks to the son and putative heir of the Laurent family’s building firm.
The ironically entitled HAPPY END joins Haneke’s film oeuvre with impeccable production values, sophisticated interiors and top-drawer performances from a starry ensemble cast, including veteran Louis Trintignant and, of course, Isabelle Huppert. This is a typical Haneke film: all his classic themes coalesce in a slow-burning treat, at times a tad too much so, and the film slightly outstays its welcome with a formulaic finale. Themes here include family guilt, shame, and revenge where social media and onscreen messaging topically enlightens the narrative adding to a gritty subtext behind the beautifully manicured domestic scenes. In one involving an impromptu moment musicale for the scion’s 85th birthday (Trintignant as Georges Laurent), the female musician, a chelloist, is conducting a covert porn exchange with Thomas Laurent – revealed only to the audience as it scrolls down on his onscreen messenger.
Isabelle Huppert plays Anne Laurent, the chatelaine of the family’s Belle Epoque residence (complete with Moroccan staff) who has recently taken over the construction business from her ageing father Georges, who is stumbling on the foothills of dementia. Recently engaged to Toby Jones’ English lawyer, and tasked with handling a UK deal involving the business, her son son, Pierre, is a non-starter prone to drunken outbursts, and her brother Thomas (Kassovitz) has a new wife, a baby and a savvy little daughter, (Harduin) from a previous marriage, who has broken into his computer and sussed his game. So far, so dysfunctional. Meanwhile, we are treated to glimpses of the migrant crisis on the streets of the coastal city.
This is a malevolent movie that wears its unsettling credentials discretely hidden under its haute couture outerwear, and as in all Haneke’s fare, we know the ending will be far from happy, for the most part. MT
ON GENERAL RELEASE FROM 1st DECEMBER 2017