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Edinburgh Film Review: ‘Not Another Happy Ending’

A trifling comedy about writer’s block that aims for a blend of Richard Curtis-style cheeriness and arch literary satire.

With:
Karen Gillan, Stanley Weber, Iain De Caestecker, Henry Ian Cusick, Gary Lewis, Amy Manson, Kate Dickie, Freya Mavor, John Bett, Louise Goodall.

It’s not just the protagonist who’s short of inspiration in “Not Another Happy Ending,” a trifling comedy about writer’s block that aims for a blend of Richard Curtis-style cheeriness and arch literary satire, and winds up mostly drawing a blank. An unusual Glaswegian setting and an appealing cast, led by rising star Karen Gillan as a ditzy novelist whose reluctant crush on her editor stalls the follow-up to her bestselling debut, combine to wring some charm from a lean premise that inevitably disproves its title. Commercially, however, a happy ending for this year’s Edinburgh closer may prove elusive even in Blighty.

Scottish director John McKay’s 2000 feature debut, “Crush,” a women-talking-dirty comedy starring Andie MacDowell, flopped in theaters but paved the way for a reasonably successful TV career. (His 2005 P.G. Wodehouse adaptation “Piccadilly Jim,” meanwhile, went straight to DVD.) The influence of the smallscreen is plainly evident in McKay’s third feature, from its sitcom-style scene structuring to its overreliance on pop-scored montages, which at least suggests it may play better in ancillary.

The initial appearance of Gillan’s perky Scottish writer Jane, dressed in full Annie Hall garb, suggests a quirkier comic tone than that struck shortly afterward by her goofy meet-cute with Tom (French actor Stanley Weber), a handsome, perma-stubbled independent publisher with a distractingly odd Franco-Scottish brogue. From there on, it’s standard romantic-comedy territory all the way.

Tom agrees to publish Jane’s first novel, a bleak roman a clef based on her troubled relationship with her estranged dad (Gary Lewis), which becomes an unlikely sensation. Along with alluring offers from bigger publishing houses, Jane is more intimately propositioned by oleaginous has-been screenwriter Willie (Henry Ian Cusick), who’s penning the screen adaptation. Despite no palpable chemistry, they swiftly move in together, to the obvious but strenuously denied consternation of Tom, who’s also drumming his fingers for the first draft of Jane’s sophomore effort.

Jane, meanwhile, finds herself brutally blocked at the final-chapter stage, as she figures out that handing in the manuscript will mark the end of her relationship with Tom. She also finds herself hectored by hallucinations of her chic protagonist, Darsie (Amy Manson), rather an old-hat conceit after “Ruby Sparks” took it to more fanciful extremes. It reeks faintly of misogyny that a supposedly smart, self-sufficient female author should be so crippled by her devotion to one moody Frenchman — particularly one who then embarks on a daft scheme to depress Jane into a productive creative space, on the rationale that all great art is the product of suffering.

Certainly, no one seems to have suffered much while making “Not Another Happy Ending”: Gillan and Weber have no romantic rapport onscreen, but work with bright professionalism throughout on characters who demand little of them. (“I don’t even know you,” Jane says to Tom after an early argument, speaking for the audience in the process.) Of the uniformly underwritten supporting roles, Ian De Caestecker scores most winningly as Tom’s cynical but soft-hearted roommate.

Technical package is presentable, with George Cameron Geddes’ evenly lit lensing casting Glasgow, a city that tends to lose out to Edinburgh in the cinematic-valentine stakes, in a flattering light. Cramming the soundtrack with Scottish singer-songwriters — including current global chart-topper Emeli Sande — is a sweet touch, though the songs themselves are on the twee side.

Edinburgh Film Review: 'Not Another Happy Ending'

Reviewed at Edinburgh Film Festival (Michael Powell Award competition/closer), June 24, 2013. Running time: 101 MIN.

Production: (U.K.) A British Film Co., Creative Scotland presentation of a Synchronicity Films production in association with BBC Scotland. (International sales: LevelK, Copenhagen) Produced by Claire Mundell. Executive producers, Steve Milne, Christian Eisenbeiss, Robbie Allen, Ewan Angus. Co-producer, Wendy Griffin.

Crew: Directed by John McKay. Screenplay, David Solomons. Camera (color, HD), George Cameron Geddes; editor, Calum Ross; music, Lorne Balfe; music supervisor, Adrian Burns; production designer, Andy Harris; art director, Fiona Gavin; costume designer, Louise Allen; sound, Kenny Allan; supervising sound editor, Tony Gibson; re-recording mixer, Nigel Squibbs; line producer, Wendy Griffin; assistant director, Jonathan Farmer; casting, Kelly Valentine Henry, Victor Jenkins.

With: Karen Gillan, Stanley Weber, Iain De Caestecker, Henry Ian Cusick, Gary Lewis, Amy Manson, Kate Dickie, Freya Mavor, John Bett, Louise Goodall.

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