Happy Endings (2005)

That Don Roos is a pretty hot guy, but as a film director, I’m not sure I’m quite sophisticated enough to get his storytelling.

Happy Endings is one of those multi-plot films with characters separated by only a few degrees from each other. Everybody just about knows everybody else, and in the end, their lives intertwine in unexpected ways.

But to get to the Happy Endings promised in the title, they have to go through a few hurdles.

Lisa Kudrow plays Mamie, a counselor at an abortion clinic still struggling with having given up her own baby a long time ago. She’s blackmailed by a flunkie named Nickie (Jesse Bradford), who wants to make a documentary in exchange for information about her missing son.

Mamie’s step-brother, Charlie (Steve Coogan), gets the notion his partner Gil (David Sutcliffe) is the father of a baby being raised by a lesbian couple, who are their best friends.

Otis (Jason Ritter), an employee at Charlie’s restaurant, runs into Jude (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who seduces her way to Otis’ father Frank (Tom Arnold).

These individual plot lines do not resolve in happy endings, but they lead the way to the happy endings summarized by friendly captions shown throughout the course of the movie.

It’s a nice juggling act and quite an unconventional storytelling style. But the characters just aren’t appealing enough to root for them. Yes, their lives are sad and messy, and perhaps they don’t deserve our compassion. What, then, is the incentive to watch them fumble about their lives for two hours?

Of course, the idea behind Happy Endings is that sometimes bad stuff has to happen to make way for the happy ending, and that happy ending may not necessarily be the outcome for which you wish the most.

Perhaps that’s the redeeming quality of this film — these unappealing characters find their way to happiness, not in the way they expected.

But I’m not sure I felt rewarded having to watch their stories spiral to get to that place. Happy Endings is a smart piece of filmmaking and nice round of complex storytelling. But it has a lot of technique and little soul.