Review / ‘Happy End’ (M) *** and a half

“WEIRD movie,” said the other bloke as we exited the cinema after watching writer/director Michael Haneke’s mordant comedy about wealthy people lacking enough style to understand the social and cultural worlds to which wealth gave them entry.

Anne Laurent (Isabelle Huppert) runs a civil engineering business in Calais, a position she took over when her father Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) became too dotty for the job. Today a retaining wall collapsed spilling soil and rock back into the excavation. Her site manager son Pierre (Franz Rogowski) is not coping with the consequences. Her surgeon brother Thomas (Mathieu Kassovitz) is making arrangements to take over responsibility for his nearly 13-year-old daughter Eve (Fantine Harduin) from his previous marriage whose mother has died. Thomas is now married to Anaïs (Laura Verlinden) at the same time as he is carrying on an online romance with another woman.

The story’s main arguments revolve around Georges, who early in the film has an accident while driving, and Eve, a savvy child yearning to achieve womanhood. George has lived enough and wants to stop.

The only stable people in the elegant Laurent house are Algerian butler Rashid (Hassam Ghancy) and his wife the cook Jamila (Nabiha Akkari) who in the best tradition of their callings see but don’t intrude.

Haneke’s screenplay offers a perceptive dramatic progress delivered with subtle humour. His filmmaking style lingers to give the viewer time after every significant moment to absorb its message. I call it quirky, not weird. Which led me to respond “I enjoyed it” as we left the cinema. Especially the scary yet poignantly comical closing sequence with Eve watching while Georges in his wheelchair sits up to his armpits in the English Channel in yet another botched bid to end it all.

At Dendy, Palace Electric, Capitol 6 and Hoyts Woden

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