Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
George Miller Says He Originally Wanted The Music In 'Mad Max: Fury Road' To Only Come From The Doof Warrior George Miller Says He Originally Wanted The Music In 'Mad Max: Fury Road' To Only Come From The Doof Warrior Stephen King Says Stanley Kubrick's 'The Shining' Is "Like A Big, Beautiful Cadillac With No Engine Inside It" Stephen King Says Stanley Kubrick's 'The Shining' Is "Like A Big, Beautiful Cadillac With No Engine Inside It" Review: Coen Brothers' 'Hail, Caesar!' Starring Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, And More Review: Coen Brothers' 'Hail, Caesar!' Starring Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, And More Naomi Watts Confirmed For David Lynch’s ‘Twin Peaks’ Revival; Tom Sizemore Joins Cast Naomi Watts Confirmed For David Lynch’s ‘Twin Peaks’ Revival; Tom Sizemore Joins Cast Watch: Quentin Tarantino Talks 5 Movies To Watch Before 'The Hateful Eight' In 7-Minute Video Watch: Quentin Tarantino Talks 5 Movies To Watch Before 'The Hateful Eight' In 7-Minute Video SAG Award Winners: ‘Spotlight’ Wins Best Ensemble, Leonardo DiCaprio, Idris Elba & Brie Larson Also Score Big SAG Award Winners: ‘Spotlight’ Wins Best Ensemble, Leonardo DiCaprio, Idris Elba & Brie Larson Also Score Big Review: ‘Jane Got A Gun’ Starring Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton & Ewan McGregor Review: ‘Jane Got A Gun’ Starring Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton & Ewan McGregor Mel Gibson Gave Nate Parker Advice On Making 'The Birth Of A Nation' Mel Gibson Gave Nate Parker Advice On Making 'The Birth Of A Nation' Paul Schrader Says Hou Hsiao-Hsien's 'The Assassin' Is "A Compendium Of Art House Cliches" Paul Schrader Says Hou Hsiao-Hsien's 'The Assassin' Is "A Compendium Of Art House Cliches" 'Birth Of A Nation' And Beyond: 25 Filmmakers & Actors That Broke Through At The 2016 Sundance Film Festival 'Birth Of A Nation' And Beyond: 25 Filmmakers & Actors That Broke Through At The 2016 Sundance Film Festival The 25 Most Anticipated New TV Shows Of 2016 The 25 Most Anticipated New TV Shows Of 2016 The 20 Best Documentaries Of 2015 The 20 Best Documentaries Of 2015 The 20 Best Films Of 2015 The 20 Best Films Of 2015 The 25 Best Action Movies Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Action Movies Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Comedies Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Comedies Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Sci-Fi Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Sci-Fi Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far Terry Gilliam Talks The "Simplistic" Films Of Steven Spielberg, Dumbing Down Of Audiences, 'Don Quixote' Start Date & More Terry Gilliam Talks The "Simplistic" Films Of Steven Spielberg, Dumbing Down Of Audiences, 'Don Quixote' Start Date & More

Review: 'Another Happy Day' Features One Of The Year's Best Female Performances By Ellen Barkin

The Playlist By Gabe Toro | The Playlist November 15, 2011 at 3:06PM

Review: 'Another Happy Day' Features One Of The Year's Best Female Performances By Ellen Barkin
5
Another Happy Day, Ellen Barkin, Review

There is no pain quite like pain shared. Which makes Lynn, as played by Ellen Barkin in “Another Happy Day,” the Mother Teresa of miserablism. She wants you to hurt like she does. It’s the only way she can properly convey her splintered psyche, a personality almost pathologically addicted to failure and shame after a lifetime of ignominy and mistreatment. She is the person who breaks your heart, then nakedly attempts to shatter the pieces for added affect.

Divorced mom Lynn is en route to Annapolis at the start of “Another Happy Day,” bringing along two of her problematic sons, Elliot (Ezra Miller) and Ben (Daniel Yelsky). Prepubescent Ben, pudgy and precocious, hides his insecurities behind a filter-less intellectual curiosity that both pleases and startles Lynn. Elliot, now in his upper teens, turns off the outside world by immersing himself in drugs and alcohol, a place he still inhabits despite being plucked from rehab for this family gathering.

Another Happy Day, Kate Bosworth

Lynn’s third son, Dylan (Michael Nardelli), is getting married. However, Lynn’s warm feelings for the one person in the family not frustrated or exasperated with her most likely stems from her estrangement from the boy. While he claims Lynn is definitively his mother, he was raised by Lynn’s abusive ex-husband Paul (Thomas Haden Church) and his still-sultry spouse Patty (Demi Moore). That they can share a conversation without a fight speaks to their innate human decency combined with their deep unfamiliarity with each other.

At least Lynn can claim blond kewpie Alice (Kate Bosworth) as her daughter. And yet, pretty as a flower, the college-age Alice nonetheless has a reason for always wearing long sleeves. On one side of the party, there’s Lynn, having repeated arguments with her inebriated teen son, trying to relate to the social awkwardness of the other, and hiding sharp utensils from her daughter. On the other is the perfect bride and groom, flanked by the regretful Paul and his proudly fit second wife. The seeds of drama, easily planted.

Demi Moore in "Another Happy Day"
Phase 4 Demi Moore in "Another Happy Day"

Despite a long, storied career, it’s safe to say you’ve never quite seen Ms. Barkin in a role like this. You like and relate to her not only because she’s a victim, not only because she’s been placed in an impossible family situation, but because her self-sacrifice is both selfless and selfish. In her genuine concern for family members, and her love of her sons, there’s real humanity, real depth, and on several occasions, real tears. Movies ignore the sacrifice of the self one must have to be a parent, but in “Another Happy Day,” this particular mother needs something, anything to exclusively call her own. In lieu of a modern, middle class lifestyle, she chooses suffering.

Barkin’s Lynn reacts to even the faintest slight as if there’s a long history of pain behind it. There is, in some cases, particularly when Lynn’s mother (Ellen Burstyn, flawless) plays favorites amongst her own three daughters. But, more often, it turns Lynn’s every gesture into a Grand Opera. It’s a martyr complex, and to not understand the lengths some will go to share their pain is to not understand exactly how loneliness works. Having been left by her abusive ex, Lynn finds solace in quiet, reasonable conversations with her otherwise intelligent addict son. The fact that he ends these “reasonable discussions” with a hailstorm of abuse is the sort of sacrifice Lynn feels she needs in order to show love. If you’re familiar with the young Miller’s acidic body of work, you’ll understand how deplorable his character can be.

Another Happy Day, review

Because of this construct, the notion of a martyr being surrounded by a family where everyone bares knives, metaphorical or otherwise, “Another Happy Day” is a genuinely tough sit. There’s no group hug, there’s no pithy observations, it’s all just people trying to get by, not minding if they trample over their loved ones to do so. And all the while, marriage brings them together, but it’s death that lingers, with Lynn’s elderly father (George Kennedy) barely keeping it together through mild heart attacks and the common ravages of old age. Lynn manages to turn every conversation into a therapy session, which only gives the troops more ammo: when her oblivious father shows his age by comforting Paul about admitting his abusive tendencies, Lynn can only shrink, pouting and returning to a childlike state of anger.

“Another Happy Day” is the directorial debut of Sam Levinson, and it feels sharp and dangerous, wrapped in barbed wire. Barkin’s Lynn is a wholly distinct characterization, and while Levinson creates a situation where she shows her scars and deficiencies, Barkin crafts the emotional context that makes her likable, relatable, at times contemptible but never worthy of hate. In a year stuffed with marquee female performances, it’s the best of the bunch, and, hopefully, the start of a fruitful partnership. [A]

This article is related to: Ellen Barkin, Another Happy Day, Ellen Burstyn, Sam Levinson, Ezra Miller, Demi Moore, Review, Thomas Haden Church, Reviews


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates