- Title: ハッピーアワー
- Directed by: Ryûsuke Hamaguchi
- Cast: Sachie Tanaka, Hazuki Kikuchi, Maiko Mihara, Rira Kawamura
When you see the word “Happy” in the title of the moves, you already grasp that the characters in them are not usually happy. “Happy Hour” is another film with a theme, which has been portraited many times – middle-class women’s re-acknowledgment of their lives.
The director, Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, and actors did a fantastic job converting the cliche into a poetic drama that reveals the inner nature of individual lives and transformations. By slowly revealing the dynamics of marriage, friendship, and working life of 4 women of late thirties throughout the 5 hours and 17 minutes (317 minutes) running time, the film shares complications of the everyday lives of ordinary people.
There are long scenes of two events that deliver the film’s main messages and, at the same time, trigger the more emotional events afterward. The first event is the Workshop of an artist and the second one is the reading night of a writer. By watching most of what happened in the events and after-event meetings, viewers follow the same transformational experience of the characters.
But the movie is not coming without flaws. In my opinion, the portrait of women’s private lives by a male director is the key to the failure.
Even though the directing and the camera work are superb and worth the 5-hour running time, the movie always seems out-of-point. The lives of four women and their partners are created from male-gaze and the prejudices of the male-centered society. The theme of pursuing their own lives seems to align with a feminist idea, but the film is, unknowingly, approached from the wrong direction with a filter.
The boredom of middle-class women as a cause of the destruction of marriage is one thing, which has been a very common simplification of failed relationships. Also, the film portraits women as selfish and unfaithful. Women characters point out others as selfish continuously. Male characters act more understandingly, solve the problem with dialogues, and suffer from the result. If the film were made by a women director, we would have seen totally different storytelling.
The film was great and even entertaining to watch. But in the end, I am feeling something amiss. It is realistic but a fantasy at the same time.