×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Happiness Runs

Trippy pic shows the consequences of free-love living on the next generation.

With:
With: Mark L. Young, Hanna Hall, Shiloh Fernandez, Jesse Plemons, Steven Christopher Parker, Laura Peters, Tyler Steelman, Joseph Castanon, Ann Magnuson, Mark Boone Junior, Andie MacDowell, Rutger Hauer.

For helmer Adam Sherman, who grew up surrounded by sex and drugs in a polygamous hippie commune, the semiautobiographical feature debut “Happiness Runs” serves as an uneasy exercise in either therapy or revenge. Set two decades after the flower children had children, trippy pic shows the consequences of free-love living on the next generation, who seek the sense of social order their parents rejected. Sherman’s personal wounds feel fresh, which makes for a superficially beautiful but otherwise bitter story centered around one teen’s suicide — a downer Strand Releasing likely will have more luck pitching to prurient looky-loos than enlightened eyes.

Vintage homemovie footage sets the scene, depicting a bygone era of tantric yoga and bohemian living as a period of blissful naivete. But all that sex inevitably led to children, and an ominous “20 years later” label disrupts the idyllic tone as blonde Becky (Hanna Hall) passes judgment on the failed experiment. “They never planned for the future,” she says in voiceover, explaining how their parents thought they’d never grow old (Becky, a college student, has been drawn back to the commune to tend to her cancer-stricken father), while the kids were supposed to stay young forever (instead, they experiment freely with sex and drugs).

Becky’s return upsets what passes for normalcy in the commune, where cult leader Insley (Rutger Hauer) hypnotizes (or “runs”) the women, bedding a different one each night, while kids sit around untended, smoking joints in trees. With Becky around, jealousy flares among the teen boys. Sherman’s proxy here is Victor (Mark L. Young), a mopey young man who spends much of his time dreaming or doing dope with his hothead friend Chad (Jesse Plemons of “Friday Night Lights,” whose fate is the pic’s one surprise). Becky seeks validation through sex, while Victor has more traditional notions of coupling and doesn’t want to share his puppy-lust object with anybody.

The characters are composites of Sherman’s childhood acquaintances, though the reasons he cares about them appear too personal to communicate here. As is true of the casually hedonistic models in an Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue, the less we know about their insecurities, the more satisfying the fantasy. On closer inspection, they all want out, coping in their various unsettling ways: through promiscuity, drugs or self-inflicted wounds. Sherman blames the parents, presenting a “Lord of the Flies”-like world in which the kids make their own rules in the absence of adult oversight. But the general lack of discipline extends to the filmmaking itself, which feels scattered and unfocused.

Though wisps of plot surround them — Victor’s mother (Andie MacDowell, her brow permanently furrowed) financially supports the commune but refuses to give her son the money to leave, while the return of local drug dealer Shiloh (Shiloh Fernandez) introduces one more rival for Becky’s attention — Sherman makes little effort to organize these elements into a cohesive narrative. His strength lies in conjuring hallucinatory visuals (baby-faced teens brooding beside an idyllic lake or running through fire-charred desert wastelands), which puts an unfair burden on his inexperienced cast to make us care as they slog toward the far-from-happy finale foretold from the beginning.

Happiness Runs

Production: A Strand Releasing release. Produced by Stephen Israel. Executive producer, Tatiana Kelly. Directed, written by Adam Sherman.

Crew: Camera (Technicolor), Aaron Platt; editor, Jonathan Alberts; music, Johnny Klimek, Reinhold Heil; music supervisor, Natalie Boone Junior; production designer, Michael Fitzgerald; costume designer, Emily Batson; sound (Dolby), Rudy Zasloff; supervising sound editor, Joe Milner; sound designer, Christian Schaanning; assistant director, Paul Hart-Wilden; associate producers/casting, Linda Phillips Palo, Paul Palo. Reviewed at Wilshire screening room, Los Angeles, May 3, 2010. Running time: 90 MIN.

With: With: Mark L. Young, Hanna Hall, Shiloh Fernandez, Jesse Plemons, Steven Christopher Parker, Laura Peters, Tyler Steelman, Joseph Castanon, Ann Magnuson, Mark Boone Junior, Andie MacDowell, Rutger Hauer.

More Film

  • Medienboard Fetes Its Five Films in

    Medienboard Fetes Its Five Films in Cannes Film Festival

    Pictured: “Little Joe” director Jessica Hausner, Martin Gschlacht, one of the film’s producers, Kirsten Niehuus, with director-producer Cordula Kablitz-Post. Berlin funding agency Medienboard’s managing director Kirsten Niehuus hosted a cocktail reception on Saturday at Grand Hotel in Cannes to celebrate the five films it funded that feature in the festival program. The five films are [...]

  • Radegund

    Cannes Film Review: 'A Hidden Life'

    There are no battlefields in Terrence Malick’s “A Hidden Life” — only those of wheat — no concentration-camp horrors, no dramatic midnight raids. But make no mistake: This is a war movie; it’s just that the fight shown raging here is an internal one, between a Christian and his conscience. A refulgent return to form [...]

  • John Wick: Chapter 3

    Box Office: 'John Wick 3' Knocks Down 'Avengers: Endgame' With $57 Million Debut

    Earth’s Mightiest Heroes put up a good fight, but John Wick put at end to the three-week box office reign of “Avengers: Endgame.” Propelled by positive reviews, “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” beat expectations with a debut of $57 million from 3,850 North American locations. That was enough to nab the box office crown [...]

  • Game of Thrones Cast

    What's Next for 'Game of Thrones'' Cast Members

    Eight years and eight seasons later, the “Game of Thrones” cast finally has some downtime to relax or move onto other projects. Some stars, like Kit Harington, who told Variety that he doesn’t plan on taking another role as physically demanding as Jon Snow, certainly deserve a break, but others have wasted no time getting back on [...]

  • MEET THE PRESS -- Pictured: (l-r)

    Submissions Now Welcome for Third 'Meet the Press' Film Festival

    Chuck Todd’s quest to bring “Meet the Press” to the movies continues. The third annual Meet the Press Film Festival, held in collaboration with the American Film Institute, will take place on October 6 and 7 in Washington, D.C., and remains a haven for issue-focused documentary shorts. Todd believes the event serves a critical mission: [...]

  • Challenges Still Keep Content From Traveling

    Cannes: Challenges Still Keep Content From Traveling to and From China

    Challenges still remain when it comes to buying, distributing and producing content that can travel between China and the West, attendees of a panel organized by the Shanghai Intl. Film Festival on the sidelines of Cannes said. Cai Gongming, president of Road Pictures, has hit box office gold in China with Cannes art-house titles such [...]

  • 180423_A24_Day_03B_0897.jpg

    Cannes Film Review: Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe in 'The Lighthouse'

    “The Lighthouse,” the second feature directed by Robert Eggers (“The Witch”), is a gripping and turbulent drama that draws on a number of influences, though it merges them into its own fluky gothic historical ominoso art-thriller thing. Set in the 1890s, and suffused with foghorns and epic gusts of wind, as well as a powerfully [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content