HAPPY EVER AFTERS
Two weddings are about to take place. Maura (Sally Hawkins) is a single mum with an outspoken 9 year old daughter Molly (Sinead Maguire), struggling to make ends meet in Dublin. She has agreed to marry the visa-jumping African, Wilson (Ariyon Bakare), but only for money, to appease Immigration. Freddie (Tom Riley) is about to marry the highly neurotic Sophie (Jade Yourell) for the second time, after their disastrous first marriage. With their wedding receptions held at the same hotel, the two couples literally run into each other with Freddie and Maura inadvertently thrown together and Sophie hysterically believing Freddie fancies Maura. Meanwhile the Immigration Officers confront Wilson, Sophie runs away, Molly gets into mischief and Maura is confused. Maybe love, marriage and lies are not the right ingredients for happy ever afters.
Review by Louise Keller:
A touch of African music is the highlight of this misconceived Irish screwball comedy but unfortunately there is not very much of it. Two weddings that are not made in heaven are the wobbly pillars that form the structure of Stephen Burke's painfully contrived screenplay. Both nuptials are taking place for all the wrong reasons and it feels as though Burke has thrown everything including the kitchen sink into the mish-mash of ridiculous and unbelievable scenarios in an attempt to extract laughs from his comedy of errors.
In a cleverly conceived and edited opening sequence, we meet the main players. With curlers in her hair and an eviction notice in her hand, Maura (Hawkins) is trying to decide what to wear, much to the frustration of her pragmatic 9 year old daughter Molly (Maguire). Freddie (Riley) is practising his vows in front of the mirror as he dons his tux. By the time we meet them at the church, we realise they are not marrying each other. Maura's wedding to Wilson (Bakere) is nothing but a business transaction: the groom will be deported back to Africa if the immigration officers become suspicious. Freddie's bride is the neurotic Sophie (Yourell), obsessed by her weight and jealous of any female who crosses Freddie's path. This is Sophie's second marriage to Freddie after a breakdown, therapy and controlling parents.
When the two unlucky couples find themselves sharing their wedding reception venue, Hotel Napoleon located in the seaside town of Bray in North County Wicklow, everything starts to fall apart. During wedding photos, Maura and Freddie fall on top of each other in the grass (don't ask!) and then there's that scene in the lift involving a lost contact lens when they clumsily end up on the lift floor just as the doors open. Sophie in the ivory strapless gown with pearls, roses and flounces witnesses it all and goes berserk, ending up in a pub in Dublin with a trio of dykes downing beers and tequilas. Meanwhile two undercover Immigration Officers are spying conspicuously on Maura and Wilson's wedding party, as Wilson's voluptuous and amorous 'sister' looks on and mischievous Molly sets off fire alarms and causes havoc.
The performances are all fine with special mention to Maguire as the youngster whose logic is far superior to everyone around her. There are a few scenes that work, like the one when Molly plays charades behind the Immigration Officers' backs as Maura is being interrogated and the heart to heart between Molly and the hapless Freddie. But the humour is badly overplayed, nothing is real, nor do we care about any of the characters. It feels like a string of skits all played for laughs. Burke has forgotten that first and foremost we need to connect with the characters. It is the incongruous rhythms of the African music as the two weddings collide that leave the greatest mark.
Published first in the Sun-Herald
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HAPPY EVER AFTERS (M)
CAST: Sally Hawkins, Sinead Maguire, Tom Riley, Jade Yourell, Ariyon Bakare, Tina Kellegher, Deirdre Molloy, Jill Murphy, Simon Delaney
PRODUCER: Lesley McKimm
DIRECTOR: Stephen Burke
SCRIPT: Stephen Burke
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jonathan Kovel
EDITOR: Guido Krajewski
MUSIC: Not credited
PRODUCTION DESIGN: John Hand
RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Sydney: July 7, 2011; Brisbane & Melbourne to follow