Happy? No. That’s not quite the word to describe the emotions at the end of this Irish comedy. Desperate, sad, brain-numbingly bored, or how about suicidal? This dismal rom-com has so little to recommend it over its interminable 103 minutes – was that actually 1,003 minutes? – it’s hard to say anything other than to question why on earth it was commissioned. The Irish Film Board have something to answer for, not least giving money to a writer/director with no track record. The result is badly photographed, poorly edited, shabbily acted and not, remotely, funny.
Director Burke claims his inspiration is the screwball comedies of the 1930s, and mentions Some Like It Hot, The Philadelphia Story and Four Weddings And A Funeral. He borrows the plot from these films, what is utterly absent is their sense of pace, chemistry and fun. Happy Ever Afters simply has no jokes – not one – in its entire running time. Burke also mentions that he wanted Jack Lemmon and Barbara Streisand for his leads, what he gets is a blank leading man and a female lead in Hawkins who is merely irritating.
Hawkins is Maura, a young mum getting married to Wilson (Bakare), an ‘African’ about to be deported. He will pay her some much-needed cash if they convince the immigration officers their marriage is real. Their reception is in a small beachside hotel, at the same time as another couple’s, Freddie (Riley) and Sophie (Yourell). They are tying the knot for a second time, after some ‘problems’ first time around – she is very highly strung and neurotic about her weight. The two couple literally collide in the garden during the photographs, and Sophie becomes convinced Freddie has his wandering eye on Maura, especially as she keeps cracking his back, pushing out his contact lens and other ‘hilarious’ scenarios. Sophie disappears into Dublin where she gets roaring drunk and meets three lesbians, while Wilson suddenly pulls out of his deal with Maura. Will Freddie come to her aid and save the day? And will they fall in love? Really, who cares?
There are lots of running jokes involving immigration officers posing as waiters, bands battling over who will play at the wedding and others, but all so feeble they fail to raise as much as a smile. Happy Ever Afters comes close on the heel of another romantic comedy set in Ireland, the equally lamentable Leap Year. Bad as that was – if I hear the words ‘eejit, riddle me this’ or ‘begorrah’ one more time I’ll poke my eyes out – it at least had an actress in the form of Amy Adams who has enormous charm, even armed with a dog of a script. Here we have Hawkins, the star of Happy-Go-Lucky, Cassandra’s Dream and An Education, trying her best with an equally limp script but she lacks Adams’ warmth. Hawkins has some skill as an actress but can hardly carry a film on her own, especially a romantic comedy – remember how royally fed up with her you were at the end of Happy-Go-Lucky? Her cameo in An Education would suggest supporting roles are her strength.
Here her leading man is an actor so lacking in charisma it’s difficult to see what anyone would see in him, let alone two women, and the supporting cast veer from the clichéd (the French hotel manager) to the downright vulgar (the three women Sophie meets in a bar). A poor effort all round, to be sure.