In this bleak economic climate, are you looking for a glass that’s half-full instead of half-empty? Here it is a comedy to be thankful for. Filmmaker Mike Leigh creates a beguiling heroine who has chosen to approach life with optimism, an open heart and a beaming smile.
Even after her bike is stolen, 30 year-old Poppy (Sally Hawkins), an upbeat London primary school teacher, sadly muses, “We didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye,” but she simply can’t stay angry. Instead, she decides to take driving lessons from Scott (Eddie Marsan), a paranoid, racist who is riddled with negativity – and can’t stop thinking about her, especially when she becomes involved with the school’s social worker (Samuel Roukin).
While Mike Leigh’s previous turns have often been downbeat and dysfunctional, like “Secrets & Lies,” “Vera Drake” and “Naked,” he switches gears with the greatest of ease, creating an endearing, character-driven portrait of a fearless, garrulous young woman who insists on wearing sexy driving boots (even though they impede her ability to find the clutch), gently teases sourpuss clerks, copes with a fierce Flamenco dancing teacher from Spain, counsels a little bully boy in her class and confronts a deranged derelict whose grunts and snarls she understands. On the home front, Poppy maintains close ties with her grumpier best friend and flatmate, Zoe (Alexis Zegerman), sharing pub binges and deadpan humor. Her catchphrase is “It makes me laugh!”
Hopefully, Sally Hawkins, who won top honors at the Berlin Film Festival, will be remembered at Oscar-time. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Happy Go Lucky” is a lighthearted, life-affirming 10. When someone tells mischievous Poppy, “You can’t make everyone happy,” her retort is, “No harm in trying.” Think about it.