27th Oct2021

Grimmfest 2021: ‘Happy Times’ Review

by Chris Cummings

Stars: Michael Aloni, Shani Atias, Iris Bahr, Stefi Celma, Sophia Santi, Kevin Thoms, Liraz Chamami, Griffin Kramer, Mike Burstyn, Ido Mor, Rigo Obezo, Guy Adler | Written by Michael Mayer, Guy Ayal | Directed by Michael Mayer

Now, this was something different.

Michael Mayer (Out in the Dark), who directs and co-writes with Guy Ayal, creates a unique film in which a Jewish dinner party among family and friends devolves into a nightmare. It is gory, it pokes fun at traditions, and it does everything with a tongue in its cheek and a willingness to push boundaries. It is, certainly, a curious one.

The humour is a big part of what makes Happy Times tick. The comedic tone entertains easily and keeps things nice and fresh, but rest assured that it isn’t a plain ole simple comedy film. The introduction of lots of violence, of plenty of gore and moments of horror, turns things on its edge. There’s a bright blood-splattered craziness to the unfolding events as that feel as much drawn from comic books as they do from Reservoir Dogs era Tarantino.

The language is a big part of how Happy Times works, too, which I found very intriguing and actually very cool. There is Hebrew and English with dashes of Spanish and Italian, as these characters interact with one another, and it feels authentic. Performances are top draw, with Michael Aloni (Out in the Dark), Shane Atias (Shameless) and Liraz Chamami (Asylum City) certainly standing out. There is something for everyone to do, though, which I found refreshing, and the interactions between these characters, this family, feel real enough to invest in, whilst also being aware of the likelihood that things are going to go, for lack of a better term, “tits up”.

I will say… while each character is given some time, it is hard to care about many of them, whether that’s because of where the story is going, or because they just don’t seem like very nice people, is for you to decide. I did find myself perhaps hoping for a little more development in some of the characters. I do suppose, though, that watching arrogant and greedy douche-bags being given the chop, is part of the fun to be had, and in that way it works wonders.

Secrets, deceit, egomania, booze, lust and culture-clashes create a fun and wacky experience as this dinner party in the Hollywood Hills turns blood-red. The growing disintegration of the party and eventual explosion of relationships is an extremely enjoyable thing to watch unfold.Happy Times is a truly memorable, unique and entertaining film that pushes comedy and violence into a bloody good time. A happy time, even. Recommended, for sure.

**** 4/5

Happy Times screened as part of this years Grimmfest.

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