“Happy Go Lucky” – Susan Granger reviews

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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.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.