Happy End: NZIFF Review
Michael Haneke returns to the festival circuit with something purporting to be lighter fare than his usual, but still with some of his usual concerns.
Centring on a construction dynasty and their gradual unravelling, a truly stellar cast taking on various roles as the Laurent family.
When the company's rocked by the ground giving way at a venue (an allegory much to be applied to the family itself), the various pressures on the Laurent clan become apparent. Combined with a suicide attempt from a family member and a patriarch determined to go on his terms, there's a lot to deal with for them all...
Happy End may be a comedy, but it seems to have forgone the laughs for something a little bleaker.
It's really only in its last 10 minutes that the humour seems to come to the fore and the film adds a few lighter touches. Described as a satire on bourgeois values, Happy End is a little lacking and frankly, in places, a touch dull as things happen off screen which are supposed to be of emotional consequence and leave you frustrated at what to cling on to.
With swathes of time devoted to a chatroom conversation in its full pixel glory, there are times when Happy End can sorely try your patience.
Where it not for Isabelle Huppert's calm composure, Toby Jones' presence and a searing turn from a young newcomer Fantine Harduin as a child entered into the dynasty, this would be sorely close to walk-out territory.
Haneke may be playing with some familiar themes of suicide and euthanasia, and there are some moments blessed by a scion of precision dialogue, but Happy End's wide varying eye means that it rarely feels like it settles on one subject for long enough for you to emotionally engage with.