Mike Leigh’s latest follows the life and times of Poppy Cross, and the results are an occasionally funny but just as often annoying portrait of this woman’s life.
Poppy (Sally Hawkins) is a super happy, manic, and positive out look of a woman who longs to help everyone like her primary school class she adores. The film serves as a window into her life, and is ultimately a plot loss character study which may irk some viewers. That’s not to say things don’t happen, there a couple of smaller stories mixed in, but there isn’t a definitive goal that for some reason didn’t quite jive with me on this occasion for whatever reason. Also, as a warning, the first reel (10-15 minutes) of this film is excruciatingly painful and annoying to watch. I wanted to plug my ears and punch everyone in the face on screen it was so bad, probably the worst thing I have seen in a movie this year. The scene in question involves Poppy and her friends sitting around drunk and laughing hysterically after a night of fun; this behavior is as annoying as hell in real life, why would it be a good idea to was 5-7 minutes of a film on this, why? Just awful. But moving on, the movie slowly begins to grow on you and really grabs you once the driving lessons begin and we are able to overcome the incredible annoyance of Poppy in the opening frames.
Though, that doesn’t mean Poppy becomes someone that we instantly love everything about her, she can still be quite a bit much on more than one occasion, and I feel like that is supposed to be the intent of the character. Poppy’s life is dotted with a couple of other interesting characters as well as her sister Suzy, filled with young angst, her flat mate Zoe who is a fellow teacher and life adventurer with Poppy, and most of all Scott an anger prone car instructor.
Sally Hawkins’ Poppy is an interesting character for sure, and she does an amazing job at creating this incredible manic character of Poppy and she fully jumps into the role. She also does a nice job of keeping her positive even in bouts of adversity, and while her attitude may seem over the top and odd, her reactions and handling of moments she needs to be real and grounded feel genuine. Her character may be a bit much for us at times, but Hawkins’ performance is definitely an impressive showing. Alexis Zegerman provides moral support for Poppy as Zoe throughout the picture, but sadly she doesn’t have a lot to work with outside that. In fact, out side a couple of supporting characters, this is truly the Poppy show and a larger base of strong supporting roles might have helped this movie be a bit stronger. Though, I can not go without mentioning Eddie Marsan as Scott who just knocks his role out of the park, and his slowly changing relationship with Poppy is a fantastic arc for the character and the tension and awkwardness will make you cringe and shutter when you are meant too. Also, shout out to the Flamenco teacher Karina Fernandez who steals the scenes she is in with ease.
In then end, Happy Go Lucky is a mixed bag. While there are plenty of solid laughs throughout the picture, there are too many moments where you just want to smack the protagonist. Throw in a couple of moments that make no sense and even go against her character if you try and defend it as her wanting to help, i.e. the homeless man scene, and the overall picture leaves you with lukewarm feelings in the end. I must say that it is a triumph to raise me up after the terrible start, and I think Poppy can be a great character to get to know, she is just a bit to annoying occasionally to really fully embrace in my opinion.