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"Happy-Go-Lucky" — (Bullz-Eye DVD Review)

April 3, 2009


 The freewheeling heroine of this award-winning entry from Mike Leigh, England’s master of controlled cinematic improvisation, is intent on ensuring that her life will always be a comedy, but never a farce. We first meet Poppy (Sally Hawkins) drinking, dishing, and having silly fun with her friends. We soon learn, however, that while our 30-year-old protagonist is determined to have as much fun as possible, she’s anything but the irresponsible party girl she might seem. In fact, she’s a highly creative, exceptionally dedicated elementary schoolteacher – the kind we all wish we had. She’s also committed to learning, growing, and generally living her life as well as possible, while also being instinctively drawn to doing whatever she can to help out everyone she meets.

Her enormous reserves of empathy are put to the absolute test, however, when she meets a fellow educator of an entirely different sort: her driving instructor, Scott (Eddie Marsan). He is an embittered, perpetually angry, and fearful bigot and conspiracy theorist who uses fractured bits of his vague, paranoid beliefs as mnemonic devices for teaching, such as the mysterious code word, “Enraha.” (Something to do with the “all seeing eye” atop the pyramid on the back of the U.S. dollar bill.) “It’s not easy being you,” Poppy tells him after one of his rages. She’s taken aback, but she sincerely means it.  She finds Scott funny; all people with zero sense of humor are kind of funny. But she also feels his pain to some degree and sincerely wants to lessen it; she also wants to learn to drive.

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