So I watched Happiness Is A Four-Letter Word…
It took me three tries to watch this movie.The first time I was having a cinema marathon and planned on watching three movies – with this being the third – but was too tired to complete the marathon. The second time I was actually in the cinema but had to leave cause the guy who was fixing my WIFI finally arrived. It was third time lucky…or unlucky.
Okay, basic plot: Zaza (Khanyi Mbau), Princess (Renate Stuurma) and Nandi (Mmabatho Mantsho) are three friends struggling to balance love, career and all the drama that comes in between. Zaza has turned to infidelity to compensate for the fact that her workaholic husband is too busy for her. Princess is a serial hookup artist and doesn’t believe in commitment and Nandi is a career focused woman who’s still caught up on her ex while trying to navigate life as a step-mother-to-be to her fiance’s son. All three women are living quite different lives but in truth all want one thing: happiness.
The second time I tried watching this movie I was a bit late and ended up watching about the first ten minutes of the movie before I had to leave. Now when I was watching it I felt like I had missed a big chunk of story because I couldn’t get my bearings on anything. When I watched it the third time, I was on time and caught the entire thing; but I still felt lost. Happiness Is A Four-Letter Word is a perfect example of “putting the horse before the cart”. This film dives into the story without introducing its characters properly (or at all). It was about halfway into the movie before I knew everybody’s name and even longer before I cared about any of the characters.
This is a shame because this isn’t a terrible movie, it’s just put together in the wrong order. There are sections of the film that clearly feel out of place. These integral moments which should have been the film’s introduction are scattered randomly and because of this, you aren’t given adequate opportunity to invest or connect with the characters. This film also lacks consistency and a thorough expansion of its story. We go from some sections being discussed in detail, while others are glossed over and forgotten about. In addition, every character that isn’t one of the leading three is treated like a plot device instead of an actual person. Their behaviour is so stereotypical and predictable that they might as well not have had names and just being called, ‘rich, distant husband’, ‘conniving ex’, ‘free-spirited artist’. The characters have no soul.
The one thing I did enjoy about this movie (which I didn’t expect) was Khanyi Mbau’s acting. I think she was the strongest of the three even though she isn’t technically an ‘actress’. Her character Zaza is a woman looking for love in the arms of another man because her husband is never around. I liked the internal conflict that Mbau brought to the role and she isn’t going to win an Oscar but it was entertaining. Mmabtho Montsho and Renate Stuurman were a bit lacklustre at times and didn’t hit the emotional notes they could have. Another highlight was seeing the chemistry between the three leads. You could feel the bond between them and they sold the friendship perfectly.
I do have to say that I’m impressed with local cinemas keeping this movie in theatres for as long as they have. Normally local movies come and go within a few weeks but this movie came out well over three months ago and it’s still there. This is phenomenal because the only way to get better South African made movies is for local cinemas to support them. We all have to support local.
Overall, Happiness Is A Four-Letter Word is nothing more than your average romantic drama/comedy. Its biggest flaws are that it isn’t assembled in the correct order and that it lacks heart and chooses to rely on cliches to get its story across. That being said, I still think if you’re South African and reading this you need to see it because local is lekker. Go watch it. 4/10