Happiness for Beginners Parent Guide
This is a boring, bland romance that offers no rewards to its luckless audiences.
Parent Movie Review
Emotionally paralyzed by her recent divorce, Helen (Ellie Kemper) signs up for a grueling backpacking trip along the Appalachian Trail. She has three goals: to forge a deeper connection to nature, to “rise from her ashes like a phoenix”, and to earn an outdoors certificate. What she doesn’t expect is to make friends with the assorted oddballs in the group, reassess her relationship with her brother (Alexander Koch), and reconnect with her brother’s handsome best friend, Jake (Luke Grimes).
Helen’s adventures might give her more than she expects but the same can’t be said for the movie’s audience. This trite, charmless production is only enlivened by the beautiful autumn woods of its Connecticut setting. It’s true that most romantic comedies follow a familiar formula – boy meets girl, boy and girl face some kind of obstacle, boy and girl get together – but good rom-coms manage to inject some chemistry and humor into the story. Not this one. The script is so flat it feels like it was written by ChatGPT and the acting matches it. This obviously isn’t an A-list cast, but they are so exceptionally wooden that I spent part of the movie wondering if Netflix is pioneering some kind of AI manipulation of its actors’ images. Seriously, this is a lifeless film that offers no emotional rewards in exchange for 100 irreplaceable minutes of your life. I already regret that I can’t get this time back.
Production woes aside, there’s nothing in this flick that you haven’t seen anywhere else. The hiking group is composed of stereotypes: the gay wannabe actor, the arrogant Wall Street trader, the ditzy blonde who’s smarter than she looks, the nerdy trail leader who sublimates his insecurities by bullying the hikers. Even the plot twist – unusual though it is – lacks emotional weight (and is predictable for moviegoers with a medical background). Lacking interesting characters or a compelling storyline, this film can’t maintain any narrative tension or interest from audiences.
On the bright side, content is relatively minor with no interpersonal violence or sexual content. There’s some minor social drinking, a bit of profanity, and some kissing. It’s basically harmless but it’s also dull and there’s no saving a movie that doesn’t have a story to tell. I would suggest that the screenwriters of “Happiness for Beginners” take a freshman level creative writing class and hone their skills. Maybe then they’ll come up with something worth watching.Directed by Vicky Wright. Starring Ellie Kemper, Luke Grimes, Nico Santos. Running time: 103 minutes. Theatrical release July 27, 2023. Updated July 27, 2023
Watch the trailer for Happiness for Beginners
Happiness for Beginners
Rating & Content Info
Why is Happiness for Beginners rated TV-14? Happiness for Beginners is rated TV-14 by the MPAA for language
Violence: Bloody cuts and blisters are seen on screen. A character breaks a leg. A character mentions a child’s death by drowning.
Sexual Content: A man and woman kiss.
Profanity: The film contains a half dozen scatological curses, eight terms of deity, a couple of mild profanities, and a slang term for male genitals. On one occasion, a character abbreviates a sexual expletive and says that something is “f’d up”: the complete swear word is not used.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Adults drink alcohol at parties. Characters are not shown inebriated and it’s clear that main characters monitor their intake.
Page last updated July 27, 2023
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Director Vicky Wright is also responsible for The Lost Husband, which is a better (although not amazing) romantic film.
The “loathing turns to liking” plotline is fairly common in romantic films. If that’s what you’re looking for, you can watch Pride and Prejudice, A Castle for Christmas, The Proposal, You’ve Got Mail, or The Sound of Music.