Monday, December 4, 2017

Short Film Spotlight: HAPPINESS

Welcome to another installment of SHORT FILM SPOTLIGHT. This week we review "the story of a rodent's unrelenting quest for happiness and fulfillment," according to the director: HAPPINESS.

Stories dealing with The Big Questions do little to distinguish themselves generally, I find. Regardless of who's dealing with the question or how they spin their tale, they will likely follow the same well traveled steps, and arrive at the same conclusion. Happiness is no exception.

Our Everyman analogue, one anthropomorphized rat among many, seeks to be lifted above the grey drudgery of his meaningless life in some anonymous urban jungle. While the city is never named, a scene early on depicting a ludicrously overcrowded subway suggests New York City. In any case, he checks off the big four boxes typical to a paint-by-numbers sermon such as this. Our rat first tries Consumerism, but buying stuff never works. Next comes Alcohol, which is lovely, but of course he overindulges. Then he moves on to Medication, which is great right up until the drug wears off. And finally, he chases after Money, which leaves him stuck in some dead end job. Roll credits. Wasn't that fun, kids?

While there are plenty of visual easter eggs among the myriad ads that fill our rat's world, the tired 2017 nihilism of the story's message distracts me. If this film had at least ended with our rat learning that happiness begins with being thankful for what you have, instead of constantly pursuing what you don't, that would at least be something. But instead the message seems to be "I couldn't find the switch that turns life into a constant orgasm, so nuts to the whole thing." And that kind of thinking is childish.

There is no switch. And while it is true that your life can change in a minute, that's not always a good thing, and it never "just happens". If you want to improve your life, you have to know what you want and then you have to work for it, recognizing that change takes time. Our rat clearly has no idea what he wants, and probably has never stopped to consider it. Instead he's given himself over to living in the Collective, and look how that's worked out.

Apologies for the rant, but there was a time when we were taught, at a very young age, to each be our own person, and it baffles me why that message never even seems to be considered now. The "Community" doesn't care about you. You have to care about yourself, and that means figuring out who you are and what you want. And maybe get out of New York City, while you're at it.

Happiness is a well-animated dose of chicken soup for the existentialist's soul. I include it below under protest.

Robert's Score: 1 / 10

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