Happy Hour Screen 94 of 18 reviews

Happy Hour

2015

Happy Hour Poster
  • Would have been better to be able to see it all at once, in a theatre, but as it was, on my TV, spread out over five days, it's pretty remarkable. All the performances are great, but I'll go with Hazuki Kikuchi as Sakurako as my favorite.

  • Hamaguchi mounts an epic film of intimate gestures that unfolds in great lapping movements containing minute stanzas of heartbreak, in which a meditation class, a post-workshop happy hour, a divorce hearing, and a book reading are allowed to exist both as worlds onto themselves as well as links in chains comprising larger existences.

  • Buoyed by four captivating performances from its unheralded actresses, Happy Hour is a fascinating, towering confection of contradictions: a modest epic; a work that simultaneously resembles both contemporary television drama and art cinema at its airiest; a film you feel like you’ve seen before but that somehow never ceases to surprise. I suspect we’ll be talking about this one for some time to come—and not because of its length.

  • The film commands respect through the audacity of its conception and scale, and it earns affection through its humane attentiveness. Best of all, it’s a movie where it’s rarely obvious what’s around the corner, and gives hope that Hamaguchi’s next move will be as unpredictable, another leap forward—or to the side.

  • If this makes Happy Hour sound like a chilly exercise in emotional forensics, rest assured you’ll feel moved at certain points—all the more so because Hamaguchi consistently resists yanking our heartstrings. In fact, in the way it patiently teases minor-key emotional and psychological insights out of ostensibly mundane moments studied at length, the film this most reminds me of is Edward Yang’s Yi Yi.

  • Its length is entirely justified, indeed richly and deeply filled. The recent movie to which it is most similar is Kenneth Lonergan’s “Margaret”; like Lonergan, Hamaguchi is a genius of scene construction, turning the fierce poetry of painfully revealing and pugnaciously wounding dialogue into powerful drama that’s sustained by a seemingly spontaneous yet analytically precise visual architecture.

  • Hamaguchi’s film develops its characters through accumulated observation and nuance... All we’re really asked to do is watch and listen; as Happy Hour demonstrates with its rare patience, attention and sensitivity, that can make all the difference.

  • Funny (sometimes caustically so), rueful, and bracingly honest, Happy Hour is a movie defined by an unshakeable belief that any encounter holds the promise of magic. As Jun says to a woman she's just met on a bus: "There are so many wonderful people. It's harder not to like somebody."

  • “Novelistic” is a tempting, even apt label, so long as one also notes that Happy Hour is narrow and deep in scope, not a broad, sweeping epic... Two and even three hours is not enough time for life to happen—life is a long process that might even feel long, and its obstacles and pleasures are often unpredictable. Five hours and 17 unbroken minutes is long enough to replicate that spontaneity, and short enough to allow us to learn a little bit while it happens.

  • Bad news first: Happy Hour is pretty much a must-see. Given the option of watching 5+ hours on a weekend afternoon, I suspect most of us would rather not, but there are things it’s worth blowing your day up for... Duration is a much-abused tool, but Hamaguchi earns every bit of his running time; if he decides to go Lav Diaz systematic with this, that would be fine by me.

  • There’s a quietly beautiful scene well into “Happy Hour” when a young writer reads from a work in progress in front of a small audience. Her words are seemingly straightforward, yet their effect is disarmingly moving. The Japanese director Ryusuke Hamaguchi stages and shoots the interlude with the same unforced intimacy and unfussy, unadorned visual style (at times borderline utilitarian) that he employs throughout this absorbing female friendship movie.

  • A vast running time typically portends the laborious trudge of "slow cinema," but Happy Hour, an extraordinary 317-minute Japanese divorce drama by Ryusuke Hamaguchi, isn't difficult or tedious at all. Hamaguchi makes economical use of his five-plus hours, enlarging details and elaborating on moments most films elide out of necessity.

  • It’s hard to do the story justice when there is so much of it, but suffice it to say the emotionally rewarding plot points in this film—and there are many—remind me of Howard Hawks’ "Only Angels Have Wings," Edward Yang’s "Yi Yi," and Robert Altman’s "Short Cuts."

  • The use of pillow shots and choices of placid interstitial music reveal Hamaguchi's kinship to Yasujirō Ozu and Hirokazu Kore-eda, but the film's formal DNA bears more traces of Eric Rohmer, who was similarly expert at orchestrating extensive dialogues with a minimum of overt directorial statement.

  • Without any kind of ostentatious form other than the longer than normal length of many scenes, Happy Hour creates an emotionally and psychologically intimate but geometrically ambitious constellation of relations and interactions. It reminded me generally of the films of Eric Rohmer, both in its precision of observation of the lives of these men and women (the film is set in the Japanese seaside city of Kobe), their homes, cafes, bars and so on.

  • It’s a strange film that calls to mind both Out 1 and Sex and the City. But Happy Hour is defined by that odd tug between spacious, undirected improvisation on the one hand, and an incident-driven examination of the ups and downs of four women friends on the other. The resulting mix oscillates between poles that reasonably seasoned viewers might be prompted to consider “cinematic” and “televisual,” even though the very nature of the Happy Hour project makes these descriptors rather inadequate.

  • The view of marital and professional options for women is, at the least, severely skeptical, but the film also manages not to be simplistic or reductive, with the complicity of the women in these bad relationships clear and their subsequent connections to each other also explored.

  • More interested in behavior than in depth, the film doesn’t have characters who pop with a richness that would justify the generous running time. There are also stretches when “Happy Hour” succumbs to melodrama: A warning that Sakurako’s teenage son has been spending a lot of time with his girlfriend clumsily portends an abortion subplot... But if “Happy Hour” doesn’t quite deliver all it promises, that may only be because it promises quite a lot.

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