Happily takes for its subject adult relationships in all their forms, yet much like many an adult relationship, the movie abruptly shifts from comedy to drama, and from fantasy to whodunit to horror, to often destabilizing, sometimes engrossing, but always interesting effect. The film centers on Tom (Joel McHale) and Janet (Kerry Bishé), a couple who can’t keep their hands off each other even after 14 years of marriage. Their friends can’t stand the way they excuse themselves in the middle of a night out to have sex in the bathroom, but Tom and Janet simply think this is what love is, so they’re blindsided when they’re uninvited from an upcoming couples’ weekend.
Shortly afterward, a man who claims to work for the government (Stephen Root) shows up at their door only to inform them their happy marriage is, indeed, unnaturally harmonious and insist he must inject them with a mysterious glowing substance in order to make them normal. Of course, normality isn’t exactly an attractive option for these two, so Janet assaults the man. Fearing the consequences if anyone finds out about what she did, Janet expresses a desire to get away from their house – the scene of the crime – only for their friends to mysteriously reinvite them to the couples’ weekend.
On their way there, Tom and Janet come to the conclusion that what happened must have been a prank, and once they’ve reached the expansive mansion that’s been rented for the weekend, they spend their time trying to figure out which of their friends was responsible in the film’s longest sequence. The movie, the feature directorial debut of BenDavid Grabinski who also wrote the script, includes plenty of twists and turns, including in genre, but not everything is equally impactful or fits together neatly. While the movie has several laugh out loud moments, it’s also hard to latch onto any of the characters given none of them are particularly likable or especially nuanced. Even Tom and Janet, who get the majority of the movie’s screen time, aren’t fleshed out much beyond their extreme desire for one another. While an early scene demonstrates how quickly the couple make up after a conflict, it’s still hard to understand what the pair see in one another beyond a shared overactive sex drive.
Meanwhile the rapid genre shifts, especially the fantasy element introduced by Root’s character early on, undermine the story the film’s already started to set up. And although Root reappears in the movie’s final chapter, by that time the story has tripped into horror territory and seems to have completely forgotten about the initial impetus for Tom and Karen’s actions. Moreover, that final chapter lacks bite, leading to an unsatisfying softball ending that barely moves the characters forward – with the exception of a surprising act of violence by a character who previously received minimal attention that’s treated with baffling disinterest.
In many ways, Happily is a diverting dark comedy, even if it ultimately isn’t especially gratifying. However, there are many tantalizing elements here, including a stacked cast that boasts actors like Paul Sheer, Natalie Zea, Kirby Howell-Baptiste and Natalie Morales. So while the movie doesn’t ultimately feel as rewarding as many of its elements suggest it should be, it is still a worthwhile experience for fans of the actors or curious dark comedy buffs.