HAPPILY EVER AFTER – a film by Joan Carr-Wiggin – SPOILERS
In this wonderful and surprising mirror-universe version of a greeting card movie, the protagonist returns home after a long absence, full of sarcasm and anxious to get back to her real life, and then reconnects with her high school bestie. But instead of discovering that home is where the heart is, and rekindling romance with her high school sweetheart, she takes advantage of events to infect the town with her own realism.
Heather (Janet Montgomery) reluctantly returns home (at the urging of her father’s doctor) expecting to find her alcoholic father near death. Like so many things in this film, that is kind of true but not really. Her high school best friend (whom she hasn’t seen in many years) is the about-to-be-married Sarah Ann (Sara Paxton), and she is (almost but not quite) happy for the reunion. She hires Heather to film her wedding.
In the course of preparing the wedding video, Heather learns many things. Her home town, she discovers, is a place where no one is happy with who they are, and everyone does what they do for well-rationalized (but questionable) reasons. Heather is implacable in her insistence that people should be true to themselves, but nothing changes until one of the town’s social pillars, the Chief of Police, fails to draw his gun when confronting some armed robbers, and is found the next morning bound and gagged in the local pharmacy. Never mind that, had he drawn his revolver, he would probably have been shot. The apparent incompetence of the most respected man in town sets off a chain reaction of revelations.
When Heather was in high school, she had an affair with a very attractive physics teacher named Colin (Tom Cullen), who was then (and still is) married to the seemingly less-than-intellectual Lisa (Melanie Scrofano). Colin is currently having an affair with Sarah Ann, and Heather comes to believe (for a while) that Sarah Ann and Colin are in love and should be together, though Colin tells Heather that he was heartbroken when she left. The town healed itself quickly after Heather’s departure. Sarah Ann smoothly replaced Heather as Colin’s lover, just as Amanda replaced Heather as Sarah Ann’s best friend.
Sarah Ann is scheduled to marry her dad’s deputy Keith (Alex McCooeye), who, when Heather interviews him for her video, compares his fiancé to his car (a red Dodge Charger that we never get to see). Keith loves his car, idolizes the Chief, and looks very much like Barney Fife. (One suspects the resemblance to the ANDY OF MAYBERRY character is intentional on Keith’s part.) Sarah Ann is marrying him to make her parents happy, and she has a well-rationalized reason for doing this, but it becomes clear that Sarah’s mom and dad have taken measures to make themselves happy in the face of adversity. Sarah Ann’s mom Ria is having an affair with Heather’s widowed dad. Ria is married to Doug the Police Chief (Al Sapienza), who is in turn clandestinely involved with restaurant owner Vendana (Laara Sadiq).
The best scene in the film happens when Heather, Sarah Ann, Amanda, and Lisa attend the local karaoke night. Everyone wears pink paper crowns, and we learn that Lisa is much more than the airhead she usually seems to be (though she still has little fashion sense and remains apparently oblivious to her husband’s affairs). After a few drinks, Lisa admits (to herself as well as to the others) that she wants to leave Colin and head for the big city like Heather did. Amanda (Naomi Snieckus) is amazed that Lisa has a hot husband and doesn’t want to keep him.
Another thing that’s great about this scene is that Amanda, who wants nothing more than to be married, delivers a lovely interpretation of a very old song, “Cuddle Up A Little Closer, Lovey Mine“. (Who knew Snieckus could sing?)
Before Amanda’s song, a slightly drunk Lisa talks about her relationship with Colin: “We were just the two best-looking people at Guelph University, so we just thought it was fate to get married. He had this leather jacket that he looked so hot in. And then the only job he could get was in this hell hole, and the only job I could find was in an insurance agency, and then I just started to think everybody’s life sucks. And then I met Heather, She studied film. She lives in the city. She makes movies.” And after Heather tries to tell her that that’s not quite the way her life is, Lisa continues: “I’m afraid if I don’t do something, we’re gonna have a baby and he’s gonna make Department Head, and I’m gonna make Office Manager, and this will be my life, forever.”
At Sarah Ann’s wedding rehearsal, the Chief learns of his wife’s infidelity, and things come to a head. (A gun is involved, but only so that the patriarch can be symbolically disarmed.) In Carr-Wiggin’s small town, tragedies are portrayed as surmountable, but we are left to imagine whether or not they are actually overcome. Relationships are left fluid, and have no definite resolution The overall outcome, nonetheless, is surprisingly very satisfying.
Alex McCooeye (Keith) will be Kevin in Joan Carr-Wiggin’s next film, THE BET, which will star Natasha Little as a woman who makes a bet with her husband that she can get the next man she sees to propose to her. THE BET completed filming in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario last August, and will be released in the fall.
Alex Kingston (Ria) will be Diana Bishop’s Aunt Sarah in the second episode of A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES, an 8-episode adaptation of Deborah Harkness’ 2011 novel. Diana Bishop (Teresa Palmer) is an Oxford historian and a powerful witch. She attempts to suppress her magic until she meets a persuasive vampire who convinces her otherwise. The show will premiere on Sky One in the UK sometime later this year, and a trailer is available on YouTube.