Happy Anniversary Movie Review

Story posted April 2, 2018 in CommRadio, Arts & Entertainment by JonMichael Pereira

Netflix’s newest original movie, Happy Anniversary, follows the two lead characters, Sam and Mollie, as they celebrate their three-year anniversary. However, they’ve come to the realization that their relationship has reached a seemingly inescapable plateau. Mollie (Noël Wells) recognizes that while she is content with the relationship, she is ultimately “unhappy” with the recession in Sam’s (Ben Schwartz) romantic, selfless behavior. As Mollie decides that she will spend the night away from Sam to rectify the situation, the film transitions into a disjointed plot were the audience now follows Sam and Mollie separately.

The primary goal of this piece was to portray the gritty complications of a realistic relationship, a reality that many traditional “rom-coms” gloss over. And while it does capture the genuine experience and fears many face in a long-term relationship, the film’s inability to provide proper character development doesn’t give its audience the proper means to understand why these characters have reached this point in their relationship.

With more of these pragmatic rom-coms successfully emerging in today’s movie marketplace, it’s obvious why Netflix agreed to display this movie amongst its collection even though it's exceedingly average. It’s essentially the background noise of movies; the piece is not interesting enough to hold the viewer's attention, but at the same time it possesses a sufficient amount of “feel good” moments to trick its audience into believing the film was “not too bad.” 
Before divulging the countless shortcomings this film contains, the actual filmography and post-production edits on this movie established a good portion of realism that this film desires to achieve. Aspects such as utilizing a dingier color pallet allowed the film to prominently maintain a quaint indie atmosphere, even altering slightly from vibrant to dismal color tones as characters’ emotional states fluctuated. This paired with the naturally seamless transition between shots as conversations and flashbacks are occurring help to save this film. But even with these promising attributes the film ultimately falls apart due to its exceedingly poor writing and scene structure.
With this being Jared Stern’s directorial debut, it’s no surprise that this film was riddled with so many issues in areas such as character and plot development as well as pacing.

Many of the flaws in this film can be attributed to the fact that there is very little if any, development in the plot or with the characters. It creates this development paradox as it generates characters’ background only when it is essential to the plot, giving you snippets of information in the form of flashbacks and forced dialogue. For example, Sam is constantly repeating the line “She won’t let herself be happy” in regards to Mollie, but her actions throughout the film never demonstrate that she suffers from any inner-conflict for happiness. It’s this messy form of storytelling that made it extremely difficult to share compassion for the main characters and instead made their problems disinteresting.

What is also difficult to understand is how Stern, who has been on the writing team for several successful comedic films, was unable to produce a film that was authentically funny. Instead, he completely misuses the charismatic nature of Wells and Schwartz by employing a style of comedy that relies far too heavily on loud, vulgar punchlines in hopes to garner a laugh or two.

Though this unique approach to the exhausted genre of romantic comedy is newly emerging, films such as 2017’s The Big Sick have already created similar circumstances that are far more immersive than what this film provides. Happy Anniversary is simply fine; it has heart about that is genuinely devoted to demonstrating the struggles many relationships face in their stagnant stages, but is muddled and ultimately ruined by poor writing and even worse comedic structure. This movie causes the film to be perfectly forgetful, which is a factor that a vast majority of rom-coms suffer from. Couples will view this film and enjoy it because it’s a reminder that true love eventually trumps all, but at the end of the day there’s nothing pushing them to watch it again nor recommend it to their friends.

Rating: 2/5 stars


JonMichael Pereira is a freshman majoring in Telecommunications. To contact him, email jqp5759@psu.edu.