There’s a married couple I’ve known for over 30 years, and everyone has the same perception of them — they’re perfect together.
They complement each other in everything they do, there’s never been a hint of trouble, and they support one another in whatever they take on.
They have two wonderful kids, a comfortable home and a great many friends, and the general consensus among all of us is that the couple in question have never had a fight.
Common sense dictates that probably isn’t true, yet the perception of complete marital bliss is there. What happens behind closed doors, well, that’s their business.
A couple like this exists in BenDavid Grabinski’s “Happily,” a pitch-black comedy that uses a “Twilight Zone” ap-
proach to put the notion of marital bliss under the microscope.
Initially quite funny, the laughs wane as the film progresses to expose a more nihilistic look at wedded bliss, suggesting that a prolonged toleration peppered with rare, brief moments of happiness is the actual norm.
Needless to say, a movie for romantics, this is not.
Tom (Joel McHale) and Janet (Kerry Bishe) are the offending couple. They have the temerity to remain attracted to one another after being together for over seven years; still have incredible, satisfying sex; are considerate of each others’ needs; and enjoy being married.
Obviously, there’s something wrong with them, and their friends are sick of them, so much so that they un-invite them to a couples weekend getaway that had been arranged.
Oddly enough, the day after getting this news, they are visited by a mysterious man named Goodman (Stephen Root), who has an envelope containing a check with many zeros and a briefcase with two syringes.
He explains to Tom and Janet that their relationship is a “malfunction” that can no longer be tolerated, and they must each take an injection that will make them like normal people. The money is for their trouble.
Suffice it to say, the couple reject this offer in the strongest way possible, and then, ironically, are re-invited to the couples weekend. Their arrival to the posh getaway with four other pairs results in a social experiment meant to expose and exploit the minor flaws in their relationship.
That the other couples — acerbic Val (Paul Scheer) and Karen (Natalie Zea), perky same-sex couple Maude (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) and Carla (Shannon Woodward), ever-tense Donald (Jon Daly) and Patricia (Natalie Morales) and mismatched Richard (Breckin Meyer) and Gretel (Charlyne Yi) — embrace the cynicism of the world and refuse to believe a loving relationship can exist rings true and results in some genuinely clever and relatable comic moments.
The juxtaposition of their bickering to Tom and Janet’s contentment also generates laughs, the chemistry between McHale and Bishe keeping us firmly in their corner.
It comes as no surprise that each couple has a secret that is revealed, which cuts to the theme of Grabinski’s film.
The ability to accept our partner’s flaws and help them cope is the key to a successful relationship. That so many people cut and run before discovering this is the tragedy “Happily” gleefully underscores, reminding us that wedded bliss can exist. All it takes is a lot of hard work and a short memory.