I can’t deny my occasional guilty pleasure in watching a good romantic comedy. Unfortunately, it often seems Hollywood follows the same outline for every romantic comedy released, complete with the same generic cute couple, how they meet-cute and subsequently fall in love. Netflix’s new quirky, offbeat comedy “Happy Anniversary,” written and directed by Jared Stern, is a welcome breath of fresh air about a couple reconsidering their relationship. The perfect romantic comedy for the couple who has perhaps been together too long, “Happy Anniversary” asks the question, “Why are we still together?”
On the morning of her three-year anniversary with boyfriend Sam (Ben Schwartz), Mollie (Noel Wells) tells Sam she is unhappy and misses the romantic he once was. She worries that their history may not be enough to keep them together, and that they will one day become as indifferent to each other like her parents did. Sam is convinced that Mollie refuses to let herself be happy. The main plot takes place over the course of a day, and through a series of flashbacks, viewers experience the ups and downs of Mollie and Sam’s relationship and how it began.
Stern’s depiction of a couple struggling with becoming too comfortable in their relationship is both genuine and funny, with hilarious moments including Mollie arguing for romance while on the toilet and Sam exploding after stepping on a hair clip. “Happy Anniversary” illustrates realistic relationship milestones like getting a first pet together, as well as trivial daily disagreements like trying to agree on a restaurant.
Stern also does not shy away from the more uncomfortable moments, like Sam’s comment about being happier when Mollie was dead and Mollie finding out her dad has cancer. Including such troublesome points from Sam and Mollie’s relationship was an important choice to illustrate that love is not always easy. Schwartz and Wells’ undeniable chemistry on-screen encourages viewers to invest in the couple’s relationship and adds to the overall honesty of the film.
“Happy Anniversary” succeeds in portraying the faults in Mollie and Sam as individuals, and how they are stronger as a couple. Mollie is a control freak begging Sam to make decisions, only to turn them down when she is unhappy with his choices. Sam is overdramatic with a delicate temper, which seems to erupt at the slightest provocation. Even though they seem to be very different people, they balance each other and prove that sometimes opposites attract.
The glaring flaw in “Happy Anniversary” is the characters’ eccentric personalities. They are a couple seemingly too quirky for their own good, which although successfully delivers laughs, comes across as overbearing and contrived. When they first meet at a bar (while Sam is waiting for another date, I might add) they immediately fall into casual banter as if they’ve known each other for years. Perhaps the intention is that they fall in love at first sight, but the whole encounter is simply unrealistic. Their individual personalities are so distinctive, and mesh so well together, it is unbelievable that they may have a future with anyone else.
“Happy Anniversary” is a sentimental and funny, but overall unimpressive film. The honesty of Sam and Mollie’s relationship may resonate with couples in a long-term relationship, but rather than spend another night watching Netflix on the couch, save some time and just watch the trailer.