“Fortunately” is ambitious and fun but extremely uneven

By Jocelyn Noveck | Associated press

“How did we find this place, anyway?”

Wait, where have we heard this before?

In fact, it’s a familiar line in a new genre of thriller that has emerged in recent years: Airbnb horror movies. There are a few constants: attractive millennials, lots of great booze, a gorgeous weekend rental. And then something scary happens, and finally someone says, “Wait, how did we find this place? ” Oops! Suddenly everyone realizes that the house has in fact chosen them. By then, it is too late to escape.

By the time “Happily,” an ambitious, sometimes compelling but hugely uneven feature debut by BenDavid Grabinski, comes to this point, it’s already lost us a bit and started to sound like another sleek hipster horror flick – you know, for those who like their attractive millennials and their chef-grade kitchen appliances even more. It’s a shame, because the setup – the first act, so to speak – is delicious.

“Fortunately” begins with this question: does the “law of diminishing returns” apply in the biological sense to marriages, or can a couple remain as in love with each other as on the day they were married? meeting, year after year? The test case is Tom (Joel McHale) and Janet (Kerry Bishe), an absurdly attractive couple still in the honeymoon phase of their wedding. These two can’t go to a party without having a steamy date in the bathroom.

Their friends are annoyed, and not just because the bathroom is closed. They are annoyed because this honeymoon phase has lasted 14 years and shows no signs of slowing down.

“They’re going home for the second round,” says their jaded friend Karen at one of those evenings, her voice dripping with jealousy. She and her husband Val don’t have the same problem. Another “problem” Janet and Tom have is that they always forgive each other for any transgression. True forgiveness, not the tired ceasefire that some couples fall into.

A few nights later, at dinner, Karen and Val take Janet and Tom out of an upcoming vacation weekend and return their deposit. “Everyone hates you,” says Karen. “You never even fight!” The couple protest, but they prove Karen’s point by stepping under the table.

Shaken, they go home and say to themselves: “We are not weirdos. They are. “Soon however, they have more serious problems. A creepy older man (Stephen Root) shows up to their house with a briefcase, explaining that he works for” the city “and that they have a major dysfunction – a rare double dysfunction – in that the law of diminishing returns does not inexplicably apply to them. Everything has to be corrected by an injection. Once injected, they will “finally be totally normal.” And they don’t have the choice.

Not to reveal too much, but violence ensues. Now, this is the story of a corpse. And a weekend getaway with eight friends – because suddenly they’re invited back. And this time they have a terrible secret.

The second act turns into something more confusing and less interesting. It doesn’t help that none of these friends are even remotely attractive or convincing. Not nervous Patricia (Natalie Morales), who made the reservation of the house, and her strange husband Donald (Jon Daly), not jealous Karen (Natalie Zea) who wants to sleep with Tom to prove that he is fed up with his wife , and her still … annoyed husband Val (Paul Scheer), not mean, Richard (Breckin Meyer) obsessed with puzzles and his poor abused girlfriend Gretel (Charlyne Yi). Only Carla (Shannon Woodward) and her partner Maude (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) seem the least worthy of spending a weekend with them.

Why are they all here? Well, there’s a scary reason they ended up in this particular house, which will emerge in due course. But what we’re really asking is why are these people still together? No one seems to be enjoying themselves or having fun at all. OK, there’s the tense atmosphere caused by the Unexpected Murder and everything, but it makes no sense that these people EVER liked each other.

Without revealing any secrets, the film progresses into horror film mode before, in its third act, knitting things together in a somewhat shrewd and unexpected way. By then, however, you may have given up on this group.

Call it the law of diminishing returns.


2 out of 4 stars

Rating: R (for sexual content, language throughout, and brief violence)

Duration of operation: 96 minutes

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