2.5 Stars (out of 4)
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How sad that the weakest element in a movie about a screenwriter is the screenplay. Despite sporadic funny bits and good performances, Happy Ending takes too long to reach its own happy ending.
Saif Ali Khan plays Yudi, a bestselling author who’s been coasting on his fame in Los Angeles for the last six years. When his money runs out, Yudi’s last option is to write a screenplay for Armaan (Govinda), an aging superstar who wants to appeal to a younger audience with a romantic comedy — or “romedy,” as Armaan calls it — that rips off various Hollywood films.
At the same time, Yudi is plagued by woman troubles. He can’t seem to break up with his cheerfully possessive girlfriend, Vishakha (Kalki Koechlin), and he’s jealous of the hot new author at his publishing house, Aanchal (Ileana D’Cruz).
Throughout the film, Yudi is visited by his chubby, hairy alter ego, Yogi (also Khan). Yogi gives Yudi advice, usually by making references to movie formulas. The characters repeatedly look into the camera and acknowledge the audience. At the film’s mid-point — when things are going well for Yudi — Yogi mentions that this is typically when things go wrong. The payoff for this pronouncement is delayed until after the intermission break.
Directors Raj Nidimoru and Krishna D.K. — who also wrote the screenplay — try to add a visual element to the screenwriting references by introducing some scenes with accompanying on-screen text listing the scene number and plot point. This only happens four or five times in the movie, so it’s not enough to qualify as a recurring theme. It just feels like a half-baked idea.
For all of the attention paid to screenwriting references, little attention was paid to story structure. There is no conflict in Happy Ending — besides the general question of whether or not Yudi will set aside his partying ways in favor of a mature romantic relationship — and there are no stakes. Yudi’s money problems are permanently resolved with an advance from Armaan, who doesn’t seem to care that Yudi isn’t making progress on the screenplay.
Vishakha gets a lot of screentime in the first half of the film. The upside is that Koechlin is quite funny in the role. The downside is that her relationship with Yudi is dead in the water, and she’s not crazy enough to endanger him. It wastes time that should’ve been spent on the budding relationship between Yudi and Aanchal.
Yudi and Aanchal don’t spend any meaningful time together until nearly an hour into the film. That is a shame, because D’Cruz is the best part of Happy Ending. She’s as funny as Koechlin, but with a relaxed charm. I wish someone in Hollywood would cast her on a TV show so I could watch her every week.
Yet even Aanchal’s scenes with Yudi are as slow and overwritten as the rest of the film. There are some genuine laughs — many generated by Khan, who’s a fine leading man — but they are separated by vast stretches where nothing much happens. Despite all its references to screenwriting, Happy Ending feels like a first draft.