Film : A grown-up Miss Sunshine
It's hard to believe that Sally Hawkins, the star of Mike Leigh's "Happy-Go-Lucky," did not win even a nomination for this year's Oscars. The best Hollywood could do was nominate director Mike Leigh for Best Original Screenplay. Don't miss this superb tribute to perpetual optimism when it plays April 11 at the Katharine Cornell Theatre, thanks to the Martha's Vineyard Film Society.
"Happy-Go-Lucky" won awards, including Golden Globes, for its star and its director from just about every other film organization. The film is a character study of a London elementary schoolteacher, Poppy (Ms. Hawkins), and her interactions in particular with an uptight auto instructor named Scott (Eddie Marsan, who puts in his own tour-de-force performance).
Let's face it: people who always have a smile on their face can be a little irritating. At first, that is the case with Poppy, who never seems to let anything interfere with her eternally sunny disposition. The film opens when her bike is stolen, but without missing a beat, Poppy goes partying with her friends.
It's easy to see her as nothing more than a bird-brained flibbertigibbet, but British director Leigh investigates further. His particular brilliance comes with his ability to peel back the layers of the ordinary to reveal unexpected depths in his characters and the situations they find themselves in.
Leigh established his reputation through often-bleak depictions of London working-class life, like the 2004 film, "Vera Drake," a no-holds-barred story of a 1950s abortionist, in which Ms. Hawkins also appears. In 2000 he won two Oscars for his Gilbert & Sullivan comedy, "Topsy-Turvy."
In the aptly named "Happy-Go-Lucky," 30-something Poppy lives in an apartment with her friend and fellow teacher Zoe (Alexis Zegerman). The two singles chatter away with their friends and colleagues in an Estuary English accent often hard to decipher.
As in a painter's portrait, the details gradually get filled in while the audience watches Poppy exercise on a trampoline, get her sore back adjusted, take flamenco lessons, and involve her young students in class projects. An early clue that she and her friends have more depth comes when they complain about how parents don't encourage their children to play outside on weekends.
What at first seems like a rather humdrum existence sparks to life when Poppy begins taking driving lessons from Scott, the little black cloud that tries to rain on Poppy's parade.
Poppy's funky clothes and accessories perfectly reflect her joie de vivre, but Scott takes exception to her high-heeled boots as inappropriate - even too dangerous - for driving. One battle follows another, as each tries to out-jockey the other.