Happy Hour

on March 26, 2004 by Tim Cogshell
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A once-promising writer who has been working on a novel for 17 years, Tulley (Anthony LaPaglia ) lives in the shadow of his famous father (played with venom by Robert Vaughn), though, frankly, none of that is particularly interesting. When "Happy Hour" works it's when protagonists Tulley, his best friend Levine (Eric Stoltz) and newfound girlfriend Natalie (Caroleen Feeney) are together, reconciled to the fate of their leader, whose end has been sealed by a diagnosis of advanced liver disease.

The idea of a promising writer losing it all to the bottle has been fodder for many a well-worn yarn, usually involving a good deal of sorrowful self-destruction. "Happy Hour" certainly treads this territory but it manages to sidestep many of the more likely clichés of the genre, concentrating instead on the associations of the hapless drinker. Tulley is the sort of drunk whose affability and charm belies his pitiable, mostly self-inflicted pain. He's lovable and outlandish rather than an obnoxious lout. And he's fairly satisfied with his circumstance, editing copy at a middling advertising agency with all its backstabbing politics whilst waiting for the happy-hour bell to ring. While Tully is the central character of this gin soaked dark comedy, most of what's going on has to do with the reactions of Levine and Natalie as they interact with the man they've both come love just as he is. "Happy Hour" is less maudlin then films like "Leaving Las Vegas" or "Days of Wine and Roses," both brilliant in their own way; here, there's a sense of humor beneath the tragedy, and it makes all the difference. LaPaglia makes for a good drunk, but Stoltz and Feeney make for even better friends to a good drunk. Collectively, the result is a familiar film off the beaten path. Starring Anthony LaPaglia, Eric Stoltz, Caroleen Feeney, Robert Vaughn, Sandrine Holt, Thomas Sadoski, Mario Cantone, Malachy McCourt, Michael Mulheren and Miriam Sirota. Directed by Mike Bencivenga. Written by Mike Bencivenga and Richard Levine. Produced by J. Todd Harris and Eric M. Klein. An O'Hara Klein release. Comedy/Drama. Unrated. Running time: 93 min

Tags: Anthony LaPaglia, Eric Stoltz, Caroleen Feeney, Robert Vaughn, Sandrine Holt, Thomas Sadoski, Mario Cantone, Malachy McCourt, Michael Mulheren, Miriam Sirota, Mike Bencivenga, Richard Levine, J. Todd Harris, Eric M. Klein, An O'Hara Klein release, Comedy/Drama, obnoxious, hapless, drinker, charm, politics, diagnosis
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