Okay, here's a fact about me. I pretty much dislike a good 90% of the people I ever meet. I just my a niggling need within my brain to point out a person's flaws quietly to myself as they very quickly ware out their welcome in my life. I don't have the patience to deal with socially inept, rude, inconsiderate and just-plain-awful people. I deal with them too much that I have stopped caring. I figure if someone can't put a smile on their face for a brief 30 seconds and a polite tone-of-voice while they ask a stranger to help them, well, I shouldn't have to treat you with any more respect.
And then there are people like Poppy Cross in Mike Leigh's Happy-go-Lucky. She seems to be an even more maddening beast of character, the type of which I would recoil from - it's like the opposite of what I typed above. Instead of being way too grumpy or angry she is way too happy and lively. How can anybody be like that with a complete stranger? A simple smile and nice calm demeanor is enough for me to not want to punch you in the throat.
And yet... and yet... I thought Sally Hawkins' performance as the unfatiguable (my spell check tells me that is not a real word, well bah to them) Poppy is so good that the viewer swings wildly between love and hate during the entire movie and, frequently, during individual scenes. I, personally, wouldn't want Poppy as a friend, but that Hawkins could exude the correct mix of daftness and charm is a testament to all that Oscar buzz that has been lingering since her win at Berlinale earlier this year. She doesn't have any B-I-G moments like Brenda Blethyn's Oscar-nominated turn in Mike Leigh's Secrets & Lies, yet it's far more of an exterior performance than Imelda Staunton's Oscar-nominated Vera Drake.
She has moments of hilarious overtness such as when she hangs around with her friends (a large portion of the film as a matter of fact) or a trip to a chiropractor and then there are times when it appears her mask - if you think she wears one - is about to slip such as a fight with her driving instructor (played by Eddie Marsan) on the side of a road. And yet it doesn't. It would have been easy to have a breakdown sequence - a midway plot diversion into domestic violence territory threatens it - but she doesn't and I am thankful to Leigh and Hawkins that they avoid it. And even when, at times, you can't imagine anybody wanting to spend more than five minutes with this batty loon they throw in a romantic development that is endearing and rather lovely.
The film, structureless as it is, is a breeze to sit through. It's two-hour run time simply glides by and I found myself not caring how long it went for. Happy-Go-Lucky is a treat and, as cliched as it may sound, a breath of fresh air in the British film stakes, which - from my perspective anyway - have been far from sunny (in terms of subject matter, not quality). Here's hoping those Oscar voters see through the teary breakdowns and dreariness that is so often in line with what performances are deemed as important enough to nominate and that Hawkins can shine through. B+