review for Happy Endings on AllMovie

Happy Endings (2005)
by Perry Seibert review

A fascinating situation is rarely enough to sustain an audience's interest in a film. There must be characters onscreen to care about. Don Roos' Happy Endings offers three different storylines, but fails to create enough engaging characters. Only in the remarkably dysfunctional relationship between the manipulative and wickedly intelligent Jude (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and the nebbish middle-aged Frank (a never better Tom Arnold) does Roos create people interesting enough to hook an audience. Whenever the film spends time on the other two stories, both more original situations to be sure, viewers will tire of them fairly quickly and simply wait out the time until they see more of the characters they have invested in emotionally. Roos is too talented a writer for the film to be a total disaster, but he can't make the drama and the comedy in these other two sections take flight. Individual lines and moments "work," but they do not add up to much. Most disconcertingly, Roos has not been able to come up with a way for these stories to merge together. The resolutions of the various characters do not feel motivated by anything that happened in the film, they feel like arbitrary decisions made by a screenwriter who was unable to find a satisfactory way to catch all of the balls he was attempting to juggle.