Fantastic Fest 09: TERRIBLY HAPPY Review
[Our thanks to Olivier D'Amour for the following review which originally ran when the film screened at Montreal's Fantasia Festival..]
There's more than just a little Coen brothers and David Lynch in Henrik Ruben Ganz's Terribly Happy. The Danish director tries his darnedest to give the movie a unique look and feel, but he's not entirely successful. He's no copycat though. His film's stylish quirkiness doesn't feel forced and his story has potential, especially in its first half.
We meet Robert, a disgraced police officer transferred from Copenhagen to a weird little town where he has a hard time fitting in, especially as the townsfolk are all a little off, to say the least. Maybe flushing his meds down the toilet early on wasn't such a good idea. Terribly Happy owes a lot to its two lead actors. As Robert, Jakob Cedergren is handsome, likeable and thanks to his controlled performance, his character's slow slide into obsession is subtle and eerily believable, even as his behavior begins to change radically. Kim Bodnia (Pusher) is menacing as the film's would-be villain, delivering a nuanced, powerful performance without hamming it up.
Its noirish storyline is simple but nothing we haven't seen countless times before. The elements are all here, but what lacks is a truly original vision. The film works best as a surreal, (very) dark comedy because as a thriller, when it takes itself too seriously, it just fails. By the second half, it starts to drag, interest wane and even if the director throws a few twists and turns in his story, by then we just don't care that much anymore. Nonetheless, it does have a few interesting things to say about the malleability of human nature and ordinary evil. The thing is, it's simply not special enough to leave that much of a lasting impression.
Review by Olivier D'Amour.