Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Jarringly strange "Happy Tears" gels into disaster

Happy Tears (2010) 
95 min., rated R.
Grade: D -

Writer-director Mitchell Lichtenstein was at least trying something fresh with his uneven feature debut, "Teeth" (a woman's vagina on a killing spree), but nothing in "Happy Tears" gels in the way it's ineptly assembled. 

Parker Posey and Demi Moore play Jayne and Laura, adult sisters who couldn't be more opposite, the former a selfish, neurotic art socialite and the latter a lower-class hippie, but return home to relieve their cantankerous father, Joe (Rip Torn), whose dementia is worsening. Ellen Barkin, with yellow teeth and crusty finger nails, decides to show up for no apparent reason as Joe's crack-whore girlfriend, a “nurse” because she wears a stethoscope around her neck. Family secrets are unveiled, differences are consoled, and Rip Torn gets to defecate in his pants. And there's buried treasure in the backyard? 

A jarringly strange, narratively unfocused mess of family drama, quirky comedy, and hallucinogenic daydreams, "Happy Tears" uses every pot and pan in the indie-film kitchen to awkward effect. Now, long-time-actress Demi Moore brings a sense of calm and almost grounds this mess. And Posey is always endearing even when playing up her twitchy tics, but her performance here is grating and she doesn't seem to ever get a grip on her “off” character and neither do we. The visual effects team seems to have constructed some stunningly weird, surreal “stoned” sequences (Posey naked, floating atop a jellyfish), but they don't belong. Lichtenstein's tone is erratic and the family doesn't feel like a real family; everything's inauthentic and just so self-consciously offbeat. 

It will pain you to tears, not happy ones, to call "Happy Tears," despite an interesting director and a talented cast, a complete disaster. 

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