THE HAPPY SAD
Directed by Rodney Evans
with Leroy McClain, Sorel Carradine, Charlie Barnett, Cameron Scoggins, Maria Dizzia.
Distributed by Miasma Films/Rodney Evans
After a lengthy-hiatus from feature films, his last and only other one being the award-winning and deservedly highly-lauded Brother To Brother (2004), writer/producer/director Rodney Evans returns with The Happy Sad, a multi-cultural interconnected ensemble film about two couples in the twenties and thirties who, possessed with unbound possibilities for sex across gender lines, attempt to define what a true loving relationship can be.
The first of the couples we meet, and the stronger of the two, are African-American homosexual couple Aaron and Marcus, who after having an off-screen manage a trois and being together for six years, decide to expand the sexual scope of their union to have an open relationship. While they establish rules that both intend to adhere to, the primary one being that neither will fall in love with their new sexual partner, you instantly know that declaration will have trouble being maintained but are eager to see how it will break and who will break it. Meanwhile six-month long white heterosexual couple Annie and Stan, who break-up right in front of Aaron while he’s waiting on them in the restaurant at which he works, struggle with their newly single lives and with being taken seriously as a teacher and budding musician, respectively.
Marcus (Leroy McClain, “Rubicon”), wastes little time in hooking up with a guy via the internet, and after their second encounter Aaron (played poignantly by Charlie Barnett, known best as rookie fireman Peter Mills on NBC’s ‘Chicago Fire’) walks in on them post-tryst to discover it’s Stan, who post his break up with Annie (Sorel Carradine, The Good Doctor), and her fake admission that she was bi-sexual, decides to pursue his own sexual identity, presumably in order to find some type of living connection with another being, or so we’re led to believe. The heartbroken Aaron, wearing his emotions on his sleeve along with sad puppy dog eyes that give away his thoughts, has trouble coping with Marcus’ ‘boy-toy.’ Meanwhile Stan, an emotionally-troubled young musician , becomes further confused when after weeks apart he not only bumps into Annie and her supposed new lover Mandy (Maria Dazzia, Orange is the New Black) on the train platform but also Aaron and Marcus. This encounter throws all the couples into a tailspin that ends up revealing secrets and inhibitions.
While the final act cleans things up a bit too neatly, Evans has created characters that while at first come off as selfish, mostly have believable or compelling reasons for making the decisions they have made. At turns the story gets jumbled as interactions occur too coincidentally. Yet as these confused people are living quarter-life love crises, The Happy Sad shows a side of uninhibited sexual desires that don’t necessarily argue for either sexual preference or monogamy being right or wrong, but functional at the time for certain characters. While all the main actors have richness to them, the standout is Leroy McClain, who as Marcus shows a complexity in his search for physical and emotional closeness even as you want to call him a jerk.
3.5 out of 5 stars
The Happy Sad begins its theatrical engagement this Friday, Aug. 16th in New York City at the IFC Center, 323 Sixth Ave (at West 3rd St) and in Los Angeles at the Sundance Sunset Cinema, 8000 West Sunset Blvd. (at Crescent Heights).