Film Reviews

Happy Tears an Emotional Fraud

Continuing both his bad filmmaking and obsession with lethal orifices, Mitchell Lichtenstein follows up Teeth, his clumsy debut about a dismembering vagina, with a voluminous explosion of poop. The brown-out is produced by Joe (Rip Torn), a dementia-addled horndog whose two daughters, environmentalist Laura (Demi Moore) and married-into-money Jayne (Parker Posey), return to Pittsburgh to hose him down and warn him of the dangers posed by his crack-addict bedmate (Ellen Barkin). The castration myth of Teeth is replaced by dad anxieties in Happy Tears: Lichtenstein, son of pop artist Roy, named the film after one of his father's paintings, which serves as the movie's poster; Jayne's husband breaks down when he can no longer manage the estate of his recently deceased, famous-painter pop. Other than the guest-starring appearance of Cy Twombly canvases, nothing distinguishes this poor relation of The Savages from all the other emotionally fraudulent Amerindies about familial dysfunction and reconciliation. There is talk of "pain" and "truth"; the ghost of dead Mom looms large. Posey is required to deliver more quirks than usual, drifting off into weird reveries, while Moore struggles to be a credible tree-hugger. The pleasure Torn takes in slurping a Schlitz, however, seems genuinely authentic.

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Melissa Anderson is the senior film critic at the Village Voice, for which she first began writing in 2000. Her work also appears in the publications of the Voice’s film partner, Voice Media Group: LA Weekly, Denver Westword, Phoenix New Times, Miami New Times, Broward-Palm Beach New Times, Houston Press and Dallas Observer.