The triumphs and failures of middle age as seen through the eyes of runaway American housewife Mary Wilson (Jean Simmons), a woman who believes that ultimate reality exists above and beyond the routine procedures of conscious, uninspired, everyday life. She feels cheated by an older generation that taught her to settle for nothing less than storybook finales, people who are disillusioned and restless and don't know why, people for whom life holds no easy answers. Great supporting cast includes John Forsythe, Teresa Wright, Lloyd Bridges, Shirley Jones, Bobby Darin, Tina Louise, Dick Shawn, and Nanette Fabray.Written by
In typically ironic '60s fashion, nobody here has the capacity for happiness
Pauline Kael, film critic for the New Yorker, quipped about this film, "It's the kind of liberation movie that never liberated anyone." That's a clever line, but it isn't exactly true. Writer-director Richard Brooks shows the upwardly mobile as stiff dullards with drinks in their hands, the upper middle class as stifling bores. There's wry wit in these vignettes, but the trouble with Brooks' film is the central character. As played by Jean Simmons, she's one of those bored and lonely housewives who desires MORE! Simmons is repressed of her emotions, yet even when she makes her escape, she's still a pinchy drag. The supporting characters aren't written any better, but the performers themselves are more interesting: Bobby Darin is terrific as a phony gigolo, Tina Louise excellent as an acerbic society wife, Shirley Jones lovely as a single woman trying to remain casual about her married lover. John Forsythe gives his standard controlled performance as Simmons' confused spouse (he doesn't know how to reach her, which is a sympathetic quality since we don't either). The title means to tell us that we make our own happy endings--that we can't find them through other people--and the final scene between husband and wife is a tricky little chess-move that leaves us up in the air. I liked many things in "The Happy Ending", but its parts are better than the sum. **1/2 from ****
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