On the morning of their third anniversary, Mollie (Noël Wells) decides she’s not happy in her relationship with Sam (Ben Schwartz). This sets off a day of mutual frustrations as Sam and Mollie sort through their relationship through flashbacks while they struggle to figure out if they have a future together.
It’s never really explained why Mollie is suddenly unhappy. The flashbacks show us they’re simply a normal couple with normal problems. Are their arguments and conflicts relatable? Sure. Can couples be indecisive about where to eat, or what color paint to buy? Absolutely. Everyone has flaws. Sam can be a jerk, and Mollie can be difficult to get along with. But then she whines about her ‘biological clock’, and uses her dad’s cancer as a means to ‘take a break’ from Sam for a while. And Sam gets frustrated with Mollie having emotions at all and laments that the next time he’ll be truly happy is when she’s dead (of course he says he didn’t mean it, but jeez).
There are some sweet moments shown as well, but these seem to be overwhelmed by the underlying resentments the two seem to feel towards each other. I understand that these flashbacks were moments designed to make us understand the nature of their relationship, and realize, as they do, that they love one another and should stay together. Honestly, though, all I could think about was how I really couldn’t care less what they decided to do, and in reality, they would probably be much happier apart.
Despite how I felt about the characters themselves, the upside was that Schwartz and Wells both give pretty good performances as people struggling to figure out what they want, personally and romantically. Rahul Kohli is a bright spot and much needed comedic relief as Sam’s friend and colleague, Ed. Kristin Bauer van Straten’s no-nonsense investor is very reminiscent of her role as Pam in True Blood, though I couldn’t quite figure out what her purpose was meant to be other than someone who inserts herself into Sam’s romantic problems and then acts annoyed by the entire fiasco. Sadly, Joe Pantoliano and Annie Potts are completely wasted as Mollie’s parents. With their talent on screen, I was expecting much more than what was given.
Happy Anniversary is only 78 minutes long, but it feels longer. The movie itself is well acted, but I didn’t feel the kind of connection between Mollie and Sam that was needed to make me care about whether or not they stayed together. The movie describes the couple as ‘quirky’, but really, they’re both just difficult and unhappy people. I wish I had more complimentary things to say about it. I feel like the premise had a lot of potential, but it simply fell short due to poor execution and two leads with very little to no chemistry.