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Movie Reviews

Film Review: “Happy Tears”

(Roadside Attractions. 1 hour, 35 minutes. Rated R for language, drug use, and some sexual content including brief nudity. Directed by Mitchell Lichtenstein.) Demi Moore (Laura), Parker Posey (Jayne), Rip Torn (Joe), Ellen Barkin (Shelly), Christian Camargo (Jackson). Music by Robert Miller.

Laura and Jayne (Moore and Posey) are two sisters from Pittsburgh who return home to deal with their increasingly senile father Joe (Torn) and his crack-addicted “nurse” Shelly (Barkin). As the sisters try to decide what to do with dad, they begin to reevaluate their own lives and what it means to be a family. A good-natured, if very messy, family drama.

Much of this movie made me unsure initially. I found it hard to imagine Moore and Posey as sisters, but they work surprisingly well together. Moore does a very solid job as the more grounded one, but Posey’s Jayne, prone to daydreams and surprising naivete, gets a bit too quirky in places. The tone of the film veers from heavier drama to oddball comedy abruptly, which a tighter edit could’ve helped. Torn seems very natural as the charming yet demented rogue Joe, but be ye warned, some of the brief nudity you see is him. Barkin is delightfully trashy as Shelly, whose stethoscope won’t fool anyone about her true profession. It’s neat to see director/writer Lichtenstein, son of famed pop artist Roy, inject an autobiographical nod into the story in the form of Jayne’s husband Jackson, who is trying to come to terms with his artist-father’s fame. That theme of parental reconciliation resonates throughout, but for all the film’s (thematic and apparent) entanglements, the ending feels way too tidy. A charming but haphazard sophomore effort.