Director: Mike Leigh
Starring: Sally Hawkins, Eddie Marsan, Alexis Zegerman
Studio: Summit/Miramax Films [Release date: Mar. 10, 09]
Video: 2.35:1 anamorphic/enhanced for 16:9 color
Audio: English DD 5.1
Extras: “Behind the While of Happy-Go-Lucky,” “Happy-In-Character,” Audio commentary by Mike Leigh, Combination of English subtitles plus titled comments by Mike Leigh
Length: 119 minutes
Quite understandable why this one – ignored by the Oscars – won Best Picture and Best Actress at the Golden Globes. Sally Hawkins is amazing and adorable as a seemingly spacy but actually very together elementary school teacher who has a penchant for understanding and helping people having rough times. Poppy is extremely free-spirited and almost nothing can get her down, including having her bicycle stolen, and dealing with a driving instructor who is so cranky he’s on the verge of flipping out completely.
The film starts slowly, letting the viewer figure things out without being bashed over the head Hollywood style. The playing around with decorated paper bags over the head and other crafts which she and her roommate do at home is unexplained until you see that they have prepared them to use in their school class activities. A couple of Poppy’s risk-taking adventures to get closer to problem personalities may be foolhardy, but her unstoppable optimism seems to provide a wall of security around her. The mostly-improvised part of her driving teacher is a tour de force of character acting that reaches scary dimensions. By the time this visit to her life is over, you will definitely feel good about Poppy and her fresh and intelligent outlook on life. The chamber music score by Gary Yershon is well-attuned to Poppy’s character and supports the joyous mood of the film. The transfer is very high-def, almost as good as Blu-ray. The combination of director Leigh’s text observations on the film together with titles for most of the dialog came up accidently and struck me as a much better way to gain the director’s input than a separate audio commentary track where the original dialog is so low as to be inaudible. Plus it is good to have clear translations of the often mumbled Britishisms. Some of Poppy’s off-hand comments are important to the plot of the film.
– John Sunier