Happy Here and Now (2002)

Genres - Mystery  |   Sub-Genres - Crime Thriller, Post-Noir (Modern Noir), Psychological Sci-Fi  |   Release Date - Dec 14, 2005 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 90 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Michael Almereyda's Happy Here and Now may not be as conceptually brilliant as his modern-day take on Hamlet, but it is a film full of interesting ideas. As in Nadja, Almereyda takes a familiar genre plot line (a girl searches for her missing sister) and proceeds to subvert audience expectation at every turn, to mixed effect. The film's narrative is all over the place, and it's bursting at the seams with eccentric characters, many of whom have little to do. Almereyda gets strong performances from regulars Karl Geary and Isabel Gillies, while dependable supporting players Clarence Williams III, Ally Sheedy, Gloria Reuben, and David Arquette (who is also an associate producer on the film) also do good work. Late local R&B legend Ernie K-Doe and the strange Quintron lend inimitable oddball flavor to the proceedings. At the center of all the low-key madness is lovely newcomer Liane Balaban (New Waterford Girl). It all takes place in an appropriately beguiling New Orleans underworld. Almereyda's themes here are complex, but the film transcends what occasionally seems to be oddness for its own sake. Illusions, fostered by technology, and a reverence for loss are antithetical to happiness. Conceptually, as one character states in reference to an obvious allegory, "If there was a point, there wouldn't be a story." Thematically, there's a willful opacity to the film, but it ends with an edifying clarity: "What really matters is close at hand and coming at you this moment. Now, now, now."