Sunday, April 21, 2013

Boston Commoners: "Whatever Makes You Happy" (2011)

In an age where Hollywood romantic comedies are a dime a dozen, this independent drama about normal characters in a new loving relationship is a refreshing change of pace.

Anna (Rachel Delante) is a graduate student living with her boyfriend Kevin (Jon Miquel) in Boston. Their relationship is mundane, neither happy nor sad. Anna's brother Steve (Jason Fenton) is in a relationship with her best friend Donna (Kerri Patterson). The bickering couple are not very inspirational to anyone they come in contact with. Anna meets musician Alex (Tyler Peck), and the sparks fly. Anna hesitates before finally pursuing a clandestine affair with Alex, and both of their lives begin to be affected, as well as their relationships with friends and family.

A.T. Sayre has gone the micro-budget route to get his story told, and the viewer is better for it. Floors creak, there are no "sets". apartments are small and cramped, and the cast is not decked out in designer clothes or driving sparkling automobiles. This lends gravitas and realism to Sayre's plot, and held my interest. The first forty minutes of the film are a mess, full of peripheral characters and some life minutiae that bored me silly. But once Alex and Anna meet, and begin their relationship, Sayre gets down to business and I was engaged.

Delante and Peck are very natural, and make Anna and Alex seem natural together. I liked their scenes together. The rest of the supporting cast is really good, from Anna's circle of friends (Miguel has a fantastic scene confronting Anna and Alex) to Alex's increasingly pissed-off bandmates.

The title of the film hints at a selfishness Anna and Alex are falling victim to, but I never disliked them or their affair. Sayre brilliantly shows new technology in the progression of their relationship, and this hits very close to home since I have literally sent tens of thousands of messages on Facebook, some even word for word missives like Alex's pursuit of Anna!

"Whatever Makes You Happy" has a few hiccups here and there, but it is a solid B effort. (* * * *) out of five stars.