Review: ‘Happy New Year’

A well-cast but generally unremarkable drama about an Iraq War vet's struggle to recover from physical and psychological wounds at a military rehab hospital.

Faint echoes of “Coming Home” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” resound throughout “Happy New Year,” a well-cast but generally unremarkable drama about an Iraq War vet’s struggle to recover from physical and psychological wounds at a military rehab hospital. Adapting his own Off Broadway play, writer-director K. Lorrel Manning cannot dispel the strong sense of deja vu that permeates the entire enterprise. This small-budget indie likely will be remembered best, if at all, as a calling card for some cast members involved.

Pic is propelled primarily by the yeoman performance of Michael Cuomo, who effectively underplays a Marine sergeant left badly scarred and wheelchair-bound after a roadside ambush. Due to overcrowding at a VA facility, he’s assigned to a psychiatric ward, where he clashes with an autocratic doctor (Jose Yenque), tentatively romances a compassionate nurse (Monique Gabriela Curnen) and bonds with aggressively colorful fellow patients. Cuomo impresses during a few intense scenes, most notably when he comforts the husband of a fallen comrade by saying, “Your wife was an excellent Marine. You can tell your daughter that.” But predictable plot and drab production values don’t help much.

Happy New Year

Production

A One Light Left production. Produced by K. Lorrel Manning, Michael Cuomo, Karl Jacob, Victoria Hay, Tom Stein. Executive producers, Iain Smith, Whitney Arcaro, Terrence Gray. Co-producer, Ian Moore. Directed, written by K. Lorrel Manning.

Crew

Camera (color), Soopum Sohn; editor, William Miller; music, Paul Brill; music supervisor, Joe Rudge; production designer, Katherine Rusch; art director Kelly Diaz; costume designer, Tiffany Jordan. Reviewed at SXSW Film Festival (competing), March 12, 2011. Running time: 105 MIN.

With

Michael Cuomo, JD Williams, Monique Gabriela Curnen, Jose Yenque, Wilmer Calderon, William Rogers.

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