Happy Anniversary – review (Netflix)

    Mollie (Noél Wells) and Sam (Ben Schwartz) are a couple seemingly in perfect sync. The night before their third anniversary, they are visiting Hao (Leonardo Nam) and Lindsay (Kate Berlant), a nauseatingly irritating couple, who foist their oneness on all around them. 

   The next morning, Sam gets up early and goes to get a muffin from a particular bakery they both like. He prepares breakfast and brings it to Sam in bed. Mollie acts happy, appreciative of the gesture. As Sam gets a little amorous, she tells him that she is not happy. They begin to talk, the talk quickly escalating to bickering. 

   Mollie’s father, Aldo (Joe Pantoliano) has colon cancer and is dying. She accompanies him to the hospital for his treatments, so Sam drives her to her parents’ house. As they drive the bickering continues, each pointing out the faults and foibles they see in the other. 

   Mollie proposes that they take a break, Sam, taken completely by surprise, tells her to pick up the rest of her stuff in the evening. Mollie, now staying at her parents, worries that she and Sam might end up like her parents who live in the same house but seem to have separate lives. 

   Sam goes to see his good friend and business partner, Ed (Rahul Kohli). Ed is totally on Sam’s side and not a fan of Mollie at all. He tries to persuade Sam to get back into the dating game. The two men are also trying to formulate a pitch for a large online clothing store. 

   One of the issues that came up during Sam and Mollie’s discourse was Mollie’s biological clock and how time was not on her side with regards to having a child. Whilst with her father at the hospital, Mollie runs into her ex-boyfriend, Arik (David Walton). He is there with his wife who has just given birth. 

   Mollie and Arik talk briefly. He tells her that it is good to see her and she looks well. Ed tells Sam that Priya (Sanchita Malik), is pregnant. Ed tries to convince Sam that his relationship with Mollie is too complex. The buyer from the online store, Willa (Kristin Bauer van Straten), turns up for the pitch. Aldo asks Mollie why she and Sam are not married. She says that he is too indecisive. Aldo points out that she is too inflexible. 

   Mollie calls during the pitch. Sam tries to ignore her calls, but Willa insists he go and sort out his relationship. He returns to the house and their dog has been skunked. They wash him in tomato juice. Covered in juice, they are overcome with carnal emotions. Afterwards, they talk about where it ranks in their sexual escapades. They remember a cosplay weekend they had at a hotel as their favourite encounter. 

   Mollie apologises for acting up in the morning. As they clean up, with Ed remembering he was mid-pitch, Mollie gets a text from Arik. He sends her a dick pic. Unfortunately, with modern technology, it comes up on her iPad as well and Sam sees the text. He asks Mollie about the text. She not realising he has seen them, lies. They have a row and he leaves. 

   An angry Sam abuses Willa outside of her son’s school, thinking that they have not got the t-shirt contract. Willa lets him rant and then informs him that she is taking them on but they will now get less money. Mollie is moping at her parents’ house and her mother, Diane (Annie Potts) tells him that he is being stupid. It is obvious that she loves him.

   Mollie contacts Ed to try and find Sam as he is not replying to her calls. Ed tells her that the last thing he mentioned was his ex, Georgia (Isidora Goreshter). Mollie goes over to her house, thinking that he might have gone over there. Georgia recognises her. Georgia is married and has a child, but because of the bad break-up, she messes with Mollie a little. 

    Sam goes to a fast food joint he went to with Mollie and runs into Hao and Lindsay. He quickly leaves. Mollie has returned home and sees the breakfast that Sam had made in the morning still there. She starts eating, but when she opens the jam, she discovers a key to the hotel of the place they had their fantasy weekend. 

   Sam is at the hotel alone and hits on a blonde woman (Jessica Lowe) at the bar. He offers to give her a massage after she says her neck hurts and invites him back to her room. Mollie races over to the hotel. She walks in on the wedding of an old couple who reconnected after fifty years. She goes to the room and he is not there. 

   Sam is in the room with the blonde woman but realises he does not want to be there. He leaves. He goes back to his own room and sees Mollie is there. They get back together. The end. 

   Written and directed by Jared Stern, Happy Anniversary is a strange little film. At only seventy-eight minutes long, it is a short film that packs a lot in. Though the central story is linear, visual memories are thrown in haphazardly, which is somewhat disorientating at times. The acting is good across the board, though Rahul Kohli’s Ed is the standout. 

   Truthfully, the first half an hour of the film is not an enjoyable watch. Not because of a bad script or acting, but just because the character of Mollie is slappably unlikeable. A real whiner in the modern sense, she actively seeks problems and, in doing so, creates them. Sam tolerating this fit of pique, is genuinely baffling as it is difficult to see what he sees in her. 

     Admittedly, the two are shown as being wholly compatible, despite Mollie’s foibles. Stern’s script captures the modern angst of ticking boxes at certain points in life and having particular life expectations. The other mild issue I had with the film was the communication, especially in the first half. 

    That Mollie should decide to declare her displeasure on their anniversary was not only odd, but it was also selfish. The discourse after her statement was more psychotherapy session than spousal discord. Thankfully, once they had separated properly, the story worked much better, with each trying to work through their feelings on the relationship in their own way. 

   Noél Wells is almost too good as the quirky, childishly selfish, Mollie. She is very difficult to warm too especially as Ben Schwartz’s easy going Sam gives her no reason to be like that. Having said that, it is an interesting observation of how men and women view relationships and the goals within them very differently. 

   Happy Anniversary is a film that improves as it goes along, which is better than the alternative. With an enjoyable soundtrack and a directing style that allows you to concentrate on the characters, it is worth a watch and is one of the better films I have seen on Netflix.  


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