Frances, a bored 9-to-5-er, decides to leave her mentally unstable husband and begins to live out of her office, unbeknownst to her co-workers. Each night she goes to a nightclub or a bar in Boston and forces herself out of her protected prim existence by meeting and picking up different men.
eyelights: the core concept.
eyesores: the uninteresting and uninspiring characters. the ear-gouging soundtrack. the uneven audio. the faulty editing. the pointless script.
I picked up ‘Little Shots of Happiness’ after being intrigued by the DVD box. The tagline promised “An urban comedy of identity lost and found through sex.” and it boasted of awards at the Long Island, New England, and Cine Arts U.S. International Film Festivals. Granted, one review on imdb made it sound like utter rubbish, as did the DVD artwork, but it otherwise showed promise.
So I hesitated and skipped it for a while, eventually giving in when the price dropped sufficiently that I could justify the gamble to myself. My attitude is that the only way to discover lost gems is to take gambles – and one person’s rubbish is another’s gold, so I figured that it was worth a shot. The worst that would happen is that I’d waste 5$ and 90 minutes of my time.
Little did I know what was in store for me (and my incredibly patient gf).
A young woman decides to leave her husband and live out of her cubicle at the collection agency that she works for. In the evenings, she dolls herself up and goes out on the town, meeting men and partying until she has to get back to work. Soon thereafter, her reality begins to crumble as she tries to keep the various pieces of her life together.
The basic premise of ‘Little Shots of Happiness’ has the makings of a pretty good comedy; I can easily see our protagonist finding ways to keep her secret from her colleagues and employers. It could devolve into all sorts of schemes to continue living in the office unbeknownst to everyone. It would be a three-act play: 1) settling in, 2) finding ways to keep her secret, 3) the threat to expose her secret.
It could actually be good, in a ’70s or ’80s comedy kind of way; with the right cast and sharp writing, it could be pretty darned funny, even. Add in the aspect that our protagonist is going out every night meeting new men, having casual dalliances here and there, not telling them that she lives out of her office, and it could make for a memorably amusing and saucy bit.
But it’s not. It’s neither.
If anything, ‘Little Shots of Happiness’ goes nowhere. Fast. At first we get the impression that we’re watching a quaint indie number made on a credit card budget, but we soon come to realize that it doesn’t really have a story to tell. What we end up doing is watching our protagonist wandering about in a drunken stupor from one bar to the next, from one sleeping area to the next, waking up on strangers’ couches or even in rubble.
It’s utterly pointless, grim, but it’s braely watchable until about the halfway mark, when there are greater attempts at dialogue and one discovers that the pair who wrote this rubbish were utterly useless at making the exchanges realistic, insightful or even remotely interesting. From that moment onward, the picture takes a nose-dive and becomes a complete mess, with not even good intentions to sustain it.
Of course, the filmmaking is of a make-do variety, so it’s difficult to be too critical; ‘Little Shots of Happiness’ was obviously made on chump change and the filmmakers had nothing to work with. It was a major challenge even hearing the dialogue, when there was any, so poor was the equipment. But you’d think that they’d at least get the actors to redub their parts so that we could hear what they were saying. Which, as we eventually found out, didn’t deserve to be heard.
To make matters worse, most of the film was immersed in a poorly-overdubbed musical soundtrack, thereby making the dialogue even less accessible; not only were the actors’ voices too low to be heard properly, but a mish-mash of cheapo electronic dance music and poorly-recorded punk rock were frequently layered overtop, basically drowning it all out. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
I don’t even understand how the music fit into the picture, anyway: it was always discrepant with the setting, pretty much scuttling the mood almost every time. Furthermore, the selections were horrid a good 85% of the time – and sometimes unbearably so (case-in-point, the opening track, which consisted of a recurring beeping that drove us out of our minds well before the end of its 5-minute runtime).
Again, this may be due to limited means: the production was so “make-do” that there were moments that looked as though they were missing frames or were different takes spliced together with a bludgeon: they didn’t even flow together, making the film look as though it had hiccupped. It’s very odd, because there’s no way one can look at the finished product and overlook its flaws.
All I could think was: Wouldn’t the filmmakers want to fix it before releasing it to the masses? Couldn’t they? Were they unable to? Was there only the one take available to them? And, if so, why is that? Why couldn’t they shoot another take for good measure? It was shot on video, after all, not film, so cost isn’t as much of an issue. Alas, no such effort was made.
In my estimation, ‘Little Shots of happiness’ is utter garbage. The characters were unappealing and irredeemable, the script is hollow and unbearable, the filmmaking is amateurish at best, the editing is incompetent, the audio is incomprehensible, and the soundtrack makes you want to stab your ear drums repeatedly with corkscrews. At least ‘The Room‘ has something going for it: its unintentional humour.
Sigh… there may be little shots of happiness in here somewhere but, to me, they were sight unseen.
Date of viewing: June 30, 2013