My Happy Ending Review: Life’s too short for uncomfortable shoes

A leading lady in films like Groundhog Day and Four Weddings and a Funeral, the bewitching Andie MacDowell has taken on supporting roles in recent years, from Ready or Not and Magic Mike XXL to the Netflix series Maid ‘ with her daughter Margaret Qualley. While she’s always memorable, it’s nice to see her return to a starring role (and a nonromantic one at that) in My Happy Ending, a heartfelt drama directed by Tal Granit and Sharon Maymon.

Written by Rona Tamir, My Happy Ending is based on a play by Anat Gov. The events unfold over several hours in a single setting, revealing the story’s theatrical roots, but Granit and Maymon add touches of magical realism to free the film’s cinematic potential.

MacDowell plays Julia Roth, an American megastar who travels to a small British clinic for chemotherapy. The name, her obvious star caliber and the many comments about her fabulous hair make this fictional Julia look a lot like Julia Roberts, and coupled with the English setting it’s reminiscent of another film about a movie star trying to go unnoticed – “Notting Hill.”

Our Julia’s star is fading after she just survived a West End flop and she’s trying to go incognito to the chemo clinic. She hasn’t told anyone, her manager or her daughter, about her diagnosis of colon cancer, and she believes she can get through a few rounds of chemo on her own without being detected. Privacy proves to be a challenge at the clinic, which has no private rooms, only curtained areas, but it turns out that the lack of secrecy is exactly what Julia needs to address at this moment.

On the other side of the curtain are three women: Mikey (Sally Phillips), a crazy, wig-swapping woman, Judy (Miriam Margolyes), a wise, curmudgeonly older woman, and Imaan (Rakhee Thakrar), a quiet but busy young mother . After a few awkward exchanges, during which it becomes clear that every conversation in the room can be overheard (often to comedic effect), Julia surrenders to her surroundings and finds solace in these women, who understand the challenges better than she faces them.

The premise of “My Happy Ending” is a bit flimsy, but there’s nothing short of a woman coming to a profound realization about her life through a surprising encounter with unexpected new allies. MacDowell brings her signature soulful charm to the role of Juliet, who starts out reserved and fearful and develops into a powerful advocate for herself. Plus, the cast of Phillips, who you’ll recognize as one of Bridget Jones’ best friends, is like cinematic cheat code — her comic energy is natural and undeniable, but here she’s allowed to paint all shades of the emotional rainbow. from euphoria to regret.

Granit and Maymon allow the characters and audience to escape the clinic through the women’s collaborative visualizations, which they call vacations, escapist fantasies to an island rainforest, Burning Man, or just home. Julia’s vacations are scattered, but as she focuses on what would make her happy, rather than impressing the other women or pleasing her flamboyant longtime friend and manager Nancy (Tamsin Greig), it helps her understand what she wants to do in the face of such a terrifying diagnosis. The support of the other women allows her to speak her truth and her choices clearly to both Nancy and her doctor (Tom Cullen).

“My Happy Endings” may feel humble at times, but the lessons it teaches are anything but disposable, including the idea that life is too short to deny yourself treats or wear uncomfortable shoes. These may be superficial messages, but the conversations about our choices in life—or death—are deep and resonant. A happy ending doesn’t always have to look the same for everyone; everyone is different and deeply personal.

Katie Walsh is a film critic for the Tribune News Service.

‘My Happy Ending’

Rated: R, for speech and short-term drug use
Duration: 1 hour, 29 minutes
Play: Launches in general release on February 24th

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