Sally Hawkins, Happy Go Lucky

Simon Mein/ Courtesy of Miramax Films

Review in a Hurry: The inexplicably overrated, overbearing and overly improvised tale of peppy Poppy (Sally Hawkins), a U.K. primary school teacher who is constantly happy. Those who are stuck watching her? Not so lucky.

The Bigger Picture: British director Mike Leigh is frequently fond of making well-crafted, downbeat movies about how depressing it is to be working-class in England (High Hopes, Naked, All or Nothing), so when he makes a comedy, that often seems like a pleasant surprise. Except that it isn't—he's really not very good at them.

At first, Poppy is entertaining, as she brings her young students out of their shells, drinks with the girls and tries to make casual conversation with even the most sullen of grumps. But then, she has an extended conversation with a homeless man that's ridiculously pretentious and predictable (he ends it by trying to make a pass at her, natch), and starts taking driving lessons with an instructor named Scott (Eddie Marsan, the villain from Hancock).

Though she spends the entirety of the lessons giggling and making jokes rather than actually listening to what he's trying to tell her, the movie wants us to view Scott as the villain, and just in case we don't get that, he's ultimately revealed as a nasty bigot. Things culminate, as many of Leigh's noncomedies do, in a shouting match.

It'd be nice to see David Thewlis' rant-spewing misogynist from Naked show up and put Poppy in her place. Alas...

The 180—a Second Opinion: Practically every other film critic out there will give you the second opinion: Marsan and Hawkins are already winning raves and acting awards. But the movie's winning of Best Screenplay awards, despite the fact that Mike Leigh's films are improvised, should tell you something.

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