And with a title like Happy Hour, I think you know what you have in store. If you like your tragicomedy steeped in whiskey, this is your movie.
Tulley (Anthony LaPaglia) is a once-promising writer that is now a self-loathing ad executive and, for unexplored reasons, a raging alcoholic. He hasn't hit rock bottom yet -- he drinks a lot but he's a happy drunk. Only the occasional beer before lunch.
Just as life is looking up, thanks to Natalie (Caroleen Feeney), who inexplicably takes to him, Tulley's life starts to spiral to black. Soon he's given a medical death sentence, and like all frustrated writers, he wants to finish his long-suffering novel before he croaks, and Natalie and Tulley's sole friend, Levine (Eric Stoltz), minister to his needs.
Happy Hour plays with a lot of expectations -- it's much funnier than you expect (both guys have rapid-fire one-liners and comebacks) and it's not nearly as morbid as you might think. Oh, it's plenty morbid, just not as much as it could be. And not nearly as grotesque as Leaving Las Vegas.
But Happy Hour also has a lot of problems. It never fleshes any of its characters out beyond bare simplicity, and even attempts to give Tulley a backstory through a famous writer father (Robert Vaughn), who appears in only two scenes, don't pan out. Instead of showing us that, say, Tulley had a bad childhood or experienced some trauma in life, Tulley just comes off as a mean sonofabitch who hates dad for some unknown reason. This makes us dislike the man more than ought to, and it really doesn't help us to care about his plight.
Still, some good performances rescue the failings of the script.
The DVD includes deleted scenes and a tiny making-of featurette.
Run time: 30 mins
In Theaters: Thursday 25th March 2010
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
IMDB: 8.5 / 10
Director: Mike Bencivenga
Producer: J. Todd Harris, Eric M. Klein, Kimberly Shane O'Hara
Screenwriter: Mike Bencivenga, Richard Levine