The irresistibly named Poppy (Sally Hawkins) is a wide-eyed--accentuate the positive--cheerleader of a school teacher with an attitude that says “I want to be your friend.” She is endlessly Happy Go Lucky and even several encounters with those who don’t share her optimistic outlook can’t seem to knock her down. The film doesn’t have a traditional plotline but rather is a series of recurring scenes from her life. After her bike is stolen she decides to take driving lessons from an increasingly frustrated instructor (Eddie Marsan). Their frequent episodes grow more intense each time as the lessons tend to bring out the pent-up anger of the man trying to teach Poppy how to make a left turn. She also takes Flamenco lessons from a loopy Spanish dance instructor (Karina Fernandez) gets romantically involved in an intense relationship with a social worker (Samuel Roukin) spends time with her best pal and roommate Zoe (Alexis Zegerman) who provides a soothing counterpoint to Poppy’s non-stop cheerfulness and tries to deal with problems involving her sisters (Kate O'Flynn and Caroline Martin) and brother-in-law (Oliver Maltman).
Leigh is known for an improvisational style of filmmaking spending months working everything out with his actors in rehearsal and then letting them do the scenes with only an outline of what it will be. In this environment actors have to be top notch and indeed Leigh has elicited a few Oscar-nominated performances in the past including Brenda Blethyn in Secrets & Lies and Imelda Staunton in his last film Vera Drake. Add Sally Hawkins to the top tier of actors in Leigh films. She is in nearly every scene and the film lives or dies on her inherent appeal. We are with this irrepressible life force from the very first moment she hits the screen with her rather garish but colorful outfits and unflappable demeanor. Hawkins is a breath of fresh air a real discovery. Also getting lots of screen time is Eddie Marsan as the driving instructor who goes ballistic. His slow simmering rage is fascinating to watch as the dynamic of the student/teacher relationship goes into unexpected--and uncomfortable--territory. Fernanez provides most of the film’s comic relief as the demanding flamenco instructor and her scenes with Hawkins are the film’s highlight. Leigh is a director known for exploring the lives of British working class. His unique films focus generally on those poor blokes and birds just trying to get by and live a life of dignity despite England’s class system. As one of his film titles suggests Mike Leigh characters have High Hopes. But Happy Go Lucky is perhaps his lightest and certainly most optimistic film yet. By focusing an entire feature on a central character who exudes happiness and goodwill toward her fellow man he turns a light also on the problems and hang-ups of people who bounce their woes off her in this oddly segmented film. Leigh’s improv filmmaking techniques work well here but seem less structured and disciplined than usual. The film is too long for its own good and many scenes wear out their welcome halfway in. Still it’s good to have a craftsman with the kind of singular voice Leigh has still able to make movies his way because in this instance at least that has produced the gift of Sally Hawkins.
The Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson is calling claims that the film is in head-to-head competition with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone crazy. Reuters reports that while newspapers have cast the two movies as rivals for box office receipts, Jackson has declared himself a huge Harry Potter fan and hopes the film will do well. The Lord of the Rings premieres in London on Dec. 10.
Harry Potter was named the most famous character in English literature in a poll conducted by marketing research group NOP World. The survey asked 1,000 people of all ages to name the first fictional character that came into their heads. According to PageSix.com, Harry beat out Winnie the Pooh, Sherlock Homes and Oliver Twist.
Screenwriter Gregory Grant's copyright case claiming Steven Spielberg stole his idea for DreamWorks' 1998 Small Soldiers is headed for trial early next year, Variety reports. Defense attorney Bert Fields claims DreamWorks has a license from Grant's ex-wife and co-author, which defeats an infringement claim under copyright law, but Grant says Spielberg sought out his ex-wife after he sued and bought her off for $20,000.
Author Richard Martin Stern died on Oct. 31 at his Santa Fe home, The Associated Press reports. Stern, 86, wrote The Tower, which was the basis for the 1974 film Towering Inferno.
British film director Roy Boulting died on Monday, Reuters reports. Boulting, 87, made some of Britain's best known films from the 1940s to the 1970s, including Brighton Rock and I'm All Right, Jack.
British playwright Anthony "Sleuth" Shaffer has died of a heart attack at his London home at age 75, Reuters reports. His thriller Sleuth ran 2,000 performances in London and on Broadway before being turned into a hit film starring Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine.
Chris Carter is in talks with 20th Century Fox to develop a second X-Files feature film. According to Variety, no cast deals have been set but original series stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson have indicated interest in returning for the sequel.
Angelina Jolie and actor-director husband Billy Bob Thornton arrived in Cambodia on Wednesday for a weeklong visit, Reuters reports. They will join United Nations projects with returned refugees on the Thai-Cambodia border. Jolie is the goodwill ambassador for the UN's refugee agency.
Little-known actress Renee Aubry is challenging Friday's Screen Actors Guild election results, Reuters reports. Aubry claims said the results should be voided because 25,000 ballots mailed out to New York-area members lacked the signature line and instructions that were included on the ballots sent to West Coast members. Melissa Gilbert defeated Valerie Harper for president.
Paul McCartney said he cried every day for the first six months he went out with Heather Mills because he was still grieving for his wife Linda who died of breast cancer in 1998. McCartney and Mills are getting married next year, Reuters reports.
The Concorde is once again flying celebs and other jet-setters from London to New York, according to Reuters. On Wednesday, the airliner returned to service for the first time since its crash in Paris last year. Sting and broadcaster David Frost were among those who checked in at London's Heathrow airport for the 200-minute trip across the Atlantic.
Country crooner Garth Brooks will give a welcome-home concert for the crew of the Navy aircraft carrier USS Enterprise on Nov. 21, AP reports. The concert will take place on the flight deck of the Enterprise, which is scheduled to return to Norfolk, Virg., on Saturday. It will be the second of three "Garth Brooks: Coast to Coast Live" concert specials broadcast by CBS.
Production on Hank Azaria's upcoming NBC sitcom has been shut down since last week, Variety reports. Five episodes of The Hank Azaria Show had already been produced when executive producer Seth Kurland exited the project because of creative differences.