Review: ‘What Happened Was’

Off-Broadway actor Tom Noonan emerges as a talented writer and director in What Happened Was, an intriguing, often mysterious drama about a date between two lonely misfits. This intense chamber piece for two features strong performances, particularly by Karen Sillas.

Off-Broadway actor Tom Noonan emerges as a talented writer and director in What Happened Was, an intriguing, often mysterious drama about a date between two lonely misfits. This intense chamber piece for two features strong performances, particularly by Karen Sillas.

It’s Friday night and Jackie (Sillas), a secretary in a law firm, leaves work early to prepare for a dinner date at her New York loft with paralegal colleague Michael (Noonan).

It doesn’t help much that Jackie and Michael know each other from work, for when he arrives at the door, it’s a new ball game with a new set of rules.

Jumping from one topic to another, Michael tells Jackie he has been engaged in writing an expose about the firm. Jackie reveals she has written children’s fairy tales. Dealing with child abuse, violence and terror, her story disturbs Michael.

There are plenty of shocking role reversals and twists, but the script’s most illuminating insights show how potentially pleasurable encounters can turn disastrous as a result of differing expectations. Though based on a play [by Noonan], there’s nothing theatrical or claustrophobic about the narrative. Production values are first-rate, particularly Dan Ouelette’s remarkable production design of the loft, the film’s single locale.

What Happened Was

Production

Good Machine/Genre. Director Tom Noonan; Producer Robin O'Hara, Scott Macaulay; Screenplay Tom Noonan; Camera Joe DeSalvo; Editor Richmond Arrley; Music Lodovico Sorret; Art Director Dan Ouelette

Crew

(Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1994. Running time: 91 MIN.

With

Karen Sillas Tom Noonan
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