Party guest Arthur ('I'm Dying Up Here's' Al Madrigal) complains to his hosts Karen ('The Unicorn's' Natalie Zea) and Val ('Veep's' Paul Scheer) that the bathroom is inaccessible because a couple have comandeered it for some boisterous sex. That’s Tom ('Community's' Joel McHale) and Janet ('Halt and Catch Fire's' Kerry Bishé), he’s told, who do this all the time and can’t keep their hands off each other after 14 years of marriage. Tom and Janet are in for two big surprises when they’re uninvited from a group vacation rental by Val and Karen and then receive a visit from a stranger (Stephen Root) who says he has mandatory vaccines that will make them ‘normal’ because they’ve been living too “Happily.”
Laura's Review: C-
In the press notes, feature debuting writer/director BenDavid Grabinski states a desire to combine an oddball romcom with The Twilight Zone. He really had an intriguing concept for the first part of that genre mash, but in expanding the second to include four other couples he’s let his film slide off the rails. “Happily” is that most frustrating type of movie experience, one which features leads who really click, starts off really well and promises to keep us guessing only to spiral into pointlessness.
Bishé and McHale grab us from the get-go, she making eyes at him ‘across a crowded room.’ These two make their attraction palpable, so much so that his minor annoyances the next morning are a real disillusionment until his wife comes home to a sparkling house, piles of neatly folded laundry and an apology later. Their makeup sex makes them late for a dinner engagement with Val and Karen who return their vacation deposit and uncomfortably inform them that their blissful behavior is so annoying that ‘everybody hates them.’ The very next morning, that stranger arrives to tell them they are both defective because neither has ‘The Law of Diminishing Returns’ embedded in their romantic natures. As he attempts to inject Tom with something to cure him, Janet clocks him with a heavy object. Returning home from an unexpected errand to bury a body, Janet frets, insisting they need to get away. Just then the phone rings – it’s Karen, calling to apologize for the night before and re-inviting them on the couples’ weekend. It’s not until they are on their way that a distinctly dreadful possibility occurs to Tom.
“Happily” is deliciously tantalizing right up until this point, but their arrival at the luxurious Airbnb found by Patricia (Natalie Morales, "The Little Things"), the only one happy to see them, is where the film begins to falter (with the exception of eerie ambient sound and a cool soundtrack featuring Devo, Nick Cave and Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark). Every other couple – Patricia and Donald ('I'm Dying Up Here's' Jon Daly), Carla ('Raising Hope's' Shannon Woodward) and Maude ('The Good Place's Kirby Howell-Baptiste), Richard (Breckin Meyer) and Gretel (Charlyne Yi) and Val and Karen – are unpleasant to be around, each relationship revealed to be on shaky ground. Worse, none of this is tied to Grabinski’s original, provocative premise about Tom and Janet’s ‘unnatural’ marriage. Things continue to go downhill when Janet makes a booze run and witnesses something really illogical which Grabinski cannot seem to write his way out of. This isn’t The Twilight Zone where uncanny events unveil moral lessons, it’s a cast up a creek without a paddle.
Saban Films releases "Happily" in theaters, on digital and on VOD on 3/19/2021.