Here’s an idea we don’t see very often: A romantic-reevaluation comedy. We’ve seen hundreds of meet-cute rom-coms; we’ve seen romantic comedies that track the entire lifespan of a relationship; and we’ve seen numerous movies about the end of a relationship, but Happy Anniversary is a, “Hey! Should we still be together?” comedy.
Happy Anniversary picks up on the third anniversary in the relationship of a couple, Sam (Ben Schwartz) and Mollie (Noel Wells). In the midst of their morning “romantic” breakfast, Mollie tells Sam, “I’m unhappy.” But it’s not the “unhappy” that suggests they should break-up; it’s the “unhappy” that asks, “What happened to us? Why aren’t you as romantic as you used to be?”
It’s a sweet, often funny movie about a relationship at a crossroads, about a couple that has moved well past the wooing stage of a relationship and settled into a comfortable groove, but is that groove too comfortable? Is Mollie unhappy in her relationship, or just interminably unhappy, or is there a difference? Is Sam phoning it in, or is this just who he is?
Happy Anniversary, which comes from Jared Sexton (a screenwriter on The LEGO Batman Movie and The Lego Ninjago Movie, as well as the creator of Ken Jeong’s Dr. Ken) is a fairly insightful movie set three years after the Happily Ever After — between the Sunrise and The Sunset. It’s about a couple with good history, but who wonder if that is enough alone.
Parks and Rec’s Schwartz and Master of None’s Noel Wells have great chemistry here, while Sexton doesn’t subvert romcom tropes so much as he sets them at a different point in the relationship. There’s still the best friend/confidante (iZombie’s Rahul Kohli, who we’re not stalking, I swear — I didn’t even know he was in this), and the parental sounding boards (Annie Potts and Joe Pantoliano, both of whom turn in lovely performances as the example of an unhappy couple who should have thrown in the towel on their third anniversary).
Happy Anniversary is not a life-altering rom-com, but it’s genuine and honest and funny and teases out a lot of truths confronting relationships in their middle years, which gives it a leg up and some of the disappointing original Netflix movies, of late. It is precisely the kind of romcom that doesn’t get made anymore without the streaming service, and well worth it as a Saturday night date movie for a couple who has spent way too many Saturday nights watching Netflix movies.