Between his prominent father expecting him to live up to his standards and a stagnating writing career, which has lead to him finding work as a proof reader in an advertising agency, it is little wonder that Tulley (Anthony LaPaglia - The Salton Sea) is not happy. It is why he gets through the day drinking, starting it with a hair of the dog, sneaking out from work to go to the bar during the day and then perched on a stool at the bar all evening, sometimes accompanied by his best friend Levine (Eric Stoltz - Anaconda). And it is in that bar that in the midst of all the disappointment he meets Natalie (Caroleen Feeney) a ray of hope who has an immediate effect on the sarcastic and cynical Tulley. But just as a moment of joy enters Tulley's life something happens brought on by years of alcoholism which leads to pain and heart ache.
One of the most popular movies which feature an alcoholic character is the original "Arthur" with Dudley Moore, but it is a movie which makes many question whether a comedy about an alcoholic, even a happy one, is ever right. Well let me just say that the team behind "Happy Hour" achieve this because whilst this drama is full of fun, often thanks to the inner sarcastic monologue of Tulley, it never robs the movie of the impact of alcoholism. In fact "Happy Hour" is the sort of movie which in many ways is more powerful than those which try to be hard hitting dramas about alcoholism as by at times being almost comical it makes it much easier to relate to Tulley, Levine or Natalie yet the impact of the situation is still there.
Relating to the characters is a big part of what makes "Happy Hour" work with the whole thing being centred around Tulley who is almost a classic cliche. Here is a man bitter about his stalled writing career yet doesn't push himself to change that, he hates the soulless job he does to finance his alcohol addiction and doesn't get on with his father, a successful writer. But what makes Tulley work is that thanks to the inner monologue we hear his wit and cynicism, almost poetic at times, making him someone that in an equally classic way you champion and hope will come good, especially when he finds love with Natalie.
But "Happy Hour" isn't just about Tulley as we also have Levine, another character so easy to connect with who is the best friend who knows his friend is an alcoholic mess but equally knows that if he was to confront him it wouldn't achieve anything other than the end of a friendship. Yet you get a sense that Levine is not that many steps behind Tulley on the way to becoming an alcoholic, enjoying the fun of being around Tulley yet almost gambling with the fact he might end the same way as he knows his friend is an alcoholic, you could say he is lying to himself. And then there is Natalie, the catalyst for change, the kindness in the dark who might be able to change Tulley if it wasn't too late. It is a beautiful performance from Caroleen Feeney as are those of Eric Stoltz and Anthony LaPaglia all of whom make their characters sympathetic with out diluting the impact of the situation involving all three of them.
Now I won't tell you how "Happy Hour" ends but let me just say that it made me think of a Harry Potter quote, yes of all things, which goes "The ones who love us never really leave us". As such what I will say is that "Happy Hour" ends with a perfect example of how quirky life can be as you never know what is going to happen next.
What this all boils down to is that "Happy Hour" is a beautiful success of a movie as whilst light hearted and entertaining it doesn't dilute from the drama and seriousness of alcoholism. In fact its ability to make a difference, which I believe it could, comes from managing to make you smile but also think.