December 21, 2017


Happy-endMichael Haneke’s run of making increasingly better films has come to an abrupt halt. The provocative auteur behind such gems as “Funny Games,” “The White Ribbon,” and “Amour” (an undeniable masterpiece) turns a regressive corner in a failed attempt at comedic satire posited as a familial drama simmering with racial discontent.

Social media and cell phones (used as video cameras) play into Haneke’s dubious story about Eve Laurent, a matricidal teenaged girl sent to live with her remarried dad Thomas (Mathieu Kassovitz) after carrying out her devilish deed, which Eve videotapes for her own satisfaction.

Although “Happy End” is not without its brief comic charms, the film’s tone is off, the ending unsatisfying. It seems as though Haneke is stealing too much from himself. In layman’s terms, he has jumped the shark.


Eve’s murderous scheme (believed by her family to be a successful suicide attempt) plants the young psychopath in the lap of French luxury since Thomas and his wife Anais (Laura Verlinden) live in a large mansion in Calais with Thomas’s ailing grandfather Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant), and Thomas’s mistress-of-industry sister Anne (Isabelle Huppert) and her twentysomething son (business partner) Pierre (Franz Rogowski).

Hidden familial problems abound. Thomas carries on an affair with a local cellist with an articulate if raunchy habit of expressing her outre sexual desires for him on direct messaging on Facebook. Naturally Eve breaks into daddy’s laptop and discovers his secret life. Eve discerns that her dad is incapable of love, at least "love" on her youthful romanticized terms.

The shark-jumping kicker arrives when Grandpa George realizes that Eve has the same killer instinct that enabled him to smother his ailing wife five years ago, a not-so offhand reference to “Amour” where Trintignant’s character did just that.


Michael Haneke has had an amazing run; he just wasn’t able to avoid falling into one of the many traps the befall most creative filmmakers if they’re fortunate enough to keep making films into their 70s. It’s not too late for Haneke to make another masterpiece on the level of “Amour” or “The White Ribbon,” but it doesn’t seem as likely or certain as it once did.

Rated R. 107 mins. (C-) (Two stars — out of five / no halves)

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