Happiness Runs – Adam Sherman – Movie – Film Review
THE DARK SIDE OF TRIPPY
by Caroline Hagood
published May 7, 2010
opens Friday, May 7 in New York
opens Friday, May 14 in Los Angeles
Adam Sherman’s Happiness Runs (2010) is set in a hippie commune
(based on the one where he grew up) 20 years after the heyday of free love, where men greet children with salutations such as, “ I was
the one who grabbed you when you came out of your mom’s vagina.” At the head of this outlandish community is Insley (Rutger Hauer), a
coot who is more charlatan than guru, brainwashing women out of their undies and into his bed. Although that’s not what he calls it.
His description of what he does? “I vibe.”
One person who is not thrilled with Insley’s specious spiritual techniques is the film’s
protagonist, Victor (Mark L. Young), whose mother is frequently out of money and knickers as a result of them. As though this weren’t
enough, Victor also gets to watch his childhood love, Becky (Hanna Hall) in liberal dalliance with sex, violence, and drugs. When she’s
not in his bed, she spends her time playing sadistic games of hide the salami with everyone else in the neighborhood.
The film’s strength is it is lush camera work that turns striking set pieces into Felliniesque shots, such as a
shrooming Becky climbing an old Ferris wheel at night. Cinematographer Aaron Platt is particularly adept at capturing smoke ambling
through light and other numinous sights. The beauty of these images provides a powerful contrast to the film’s more disturbing
qualities. The shortcoming of Happiness Runs is its sense of inertia. Perhaps because it
portrays its world of numbed emotion and thought a little too well, the film seems a bit brainwashed itself at times.
When Insley says that hippiedom is becoming the predominant culture, “like
Rome,” it’s the fall of that empire that the audience is made to think of. Happiness Runs’
parade of semi-naked women in surreal sexual trances and self-mutilating youth serves as an uncomfortable reminder of the danger of
having no boundaries what-so-bloody-ever. As in the case of many ideological experiments gone wrong, this utopia is decidedly dystopian.
In the end, like a trip on any of the many drugs done in it, Happiness Runs is at once
hallucinogenic and horrifying, hovering between dream and nightmare.
carolinehagood @ stageandcinema.com