A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this indie drama serves is brimming with family dysfunction, centered around a wedding. The movie's heavy material -- drug abuse, physical abuse, estrangement, self-harm, and death -- could make it overwhelming for some adult viewers, let alone tweens and young teens. Expect plenty of swearing ("f--k," "s--t," etc.), brief nudity and some crass sex talk, lingering scenes of a teen getting high, and heartbreaking meanness among family members who appear to want to care for each other, even if they're not very good at showing it.
What's the story?
Lynn (Ellen Barkin) is facing a difficult next few days. Her oldest son, Dylan (Michael Nardelli), is getting married, but it's not just another happy day, as the movie's title ironically suggests. Lynn's ex-husband (Thomas Haden Church), with whom she shares an enormously painful memory, and his wife (Demi Moore), who openly detests her, will be there. Meanwhile, Lynn's other son, Elliot (Ezra Miller), who has struggled with drugs, is fresh out of rehab, and her youngest, Ben (Daniel Yelsky), is having trouble processing it all because of his Asperger's. And her only girl, a college student named Alice (Kate Bosworth), is expected to show up but struggles with a compulsion to harm herself; she's especially alarmed to be anywhere near her father. To top it all off, Lynn's sisters continue to back-bite even as her estranged mother (Ellen Burstyn) persists in keeping the distance between them far and wide. And Lynn's father is dying. How will they all get along?
Is it any good?
Soaking in portent, ANOTHER HAPPY DAY carries its enormous weight on its sleeve. Nearly every single character is unhappy in this movie, clobbered by everything from angst to deep trauma, and pretty much everything in between. The performances are strong, the epiphanies weighty, but sometimes it all feels just a little too much -- a pity, considering the investments that the actors have made in their performances.
The movie is so crowded with tragedy that it all blends together, blunting the impact. Elliot's storyline, for instance, has so much potential, but it ends up feeling like another sad teen-with-drug-addiction-issue problem, despite his smart dialogue. Nonetheless, it's still a memorable experience to witness Barkin and Burstyn sharing the screen; acting aficionados will swoon.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Another Happy Day portrays family relationships. Is this a positive view of families? A negative one? What's the overall message?
Why does Hollywood like to mine family get togethers for drama? What makes these situations inherently rife with material?
How does the movie deal with addiction? Are the consequences of substance use and abuse realistic? Parents, talk to your teens about alcohol and drug use.
- In theaters: November 18, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: January 24, 2012
- Cast: Demi Moore, Ellen Barkin, Ellen Burstyn
- Director: Sam Levinson
- Studio: Phase 4 Films
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 115 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: drug/alcohol abuse, pervasive language including sexual references, and brief graphic nudity
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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