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2 Sep 2023


NextImg:Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Happy Ending’ on Netflix, a Sexy Dutch Dramedy About a Woman’s Struggle to Reach the Big O

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Happy Ending (2023)

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Happy Ending (now streaming on Netflix) is a Dutch dramedy that’s kind of frustrating because its protagonist is frustrated and won’t do anything about it. ARGH, we think, since she could easily address the problem if she’d just be communicative about it, but just. Can’t. Do it. I mean, I guess it’s hard to tell your partner of a year that he has yet to fully satisfy you sexually, and you’ve been faking it all along, and if you told the truth, you’d probably demolish the poor guy’s feelings. That’s a conundrum. But is it a situation worthy of an entire movie? Let’s find out.  

The Gist: Whump. Whump. Whump. The mattress appears to be getting some heavy action. Hello there! But it ain’t what you think: Luna (Gaite Jansen) is just jumping on it while Mink (Martijn Lakemeier) stands outside, determining how loud they can get when they’re really going for it later. This is what you call “irony,” because the implication is that their sex life is hotter than hellflames when, well, it’s kinda not. We witness it firsthand as Mink, you know, bats for the cycle, while Luna dribbles a grounder to second. But if you heard her, well, you might think she’s rounding third and heading home home home! Her voiceover tells the truth, though: “That was my 132nd fake orgasm,” she says. Eeeeesh. On second thought, was she particularly convincing? Hard to tell. She and Mink have been dating for a year. They met while working at the same beachside bar, hit it off, looked – and still look – very cute together. When they consummated their attraction the first time, she pretended, and just kept pretending, and never talked about it or corrected it or anything and now she sees it as a try-to-get-the-genie-back-in-the-bottle impossibility.

But she’s very clearly in love with Mink. They have a lot of fun together, dancing, drinking, going to dress-up cosplay dinner parties with their friends. She even moved in with him. One night, he reaches the zenith, so to speak, and she goes yesyesyes and then she sneaks off into the bathroom after he’s out cold and opens the little soap box, pulls out her handy-dandy vibrator and finishes the deal. For their one-year anniversary, one of her lady besties gives them some fluffy handcuffs, which spins into an idea: How about they spice up their sex life by inviting a third party into their bed? Luna suggests it and Mink is game, but he still thinks she’s singing ‘Erotic City’ when she’s actually singing ‘I can’t get no satisfaction.’ Or ‘She-Bop.’ 

We get a comical sequence where they try to pick someone up at a nightclub – “I can’t flirt to save my life,” she says – then switch to using an app. (When she fills out their profile, under “interests,” she puts “Netflix.” Bleargh.) We get a montage of swiping and a funny bit where Luna says, “Why are there so many people?” and then they meet Eve (Joy Delima). All cards on the table, the three of them go out bar-hopping and then back to Luna and Mink’s place for a pretty lengthy sequence in which there’s some awkwardness and some sexiness and after Mink reaches the holy land and Luna fakes it, he passes out. This is when Eve looks at Luna, perhaps knowingly and perhaps not, and ventures down south and asks her what she likes and before you know it, RAPTURE! Ahh. Finally. But… now what?

Happy Ending Netflix Streaming
Photo: Elmer van der Marel

What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: Happy Ending takes the European sensibilities of The Worst Person in the World and crosses it with Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, Threesome and any of a million American rom-coms with an idiot plot and frustrating protagonist who refuses to do the one thing they could do to address the main problem.

Performance Worth Watching: Jansen brings a Heather Graham or Anne Hathaway-esque appeal to the character, and she’s more than capable of carrying a mediumweight film like this, although one can sense she’s trying to make Luna a more cohesive character than she is on the page. 

Memorable Dialogue: Sometimes this script gets cutesy with the double-entendres, e.g., when Mink and Luna are out to dinner and order their fancy desserts, and the waitress repeats their order back to them: “OK: One threesome and a cheesecake.”

Sex and Skin: Plenty! Some guy-and-girl, some girl-and-girl, some guy-and-girl-and-girl, and it’s all moderately graphic and mostly tasteful.

Our Take: Happy Ending delivers sex sequences like an action film structured around its fights and chases. It doesn’t exist solely to titillate, though – writer-director Joosje Duk tiptoes the line between comedy and drama, and illustrates what happens when couples aren’t open, honest and communicative. It’s steamy, but never sordid, and ultimately too sweet to be scorching.

The movie only functions in fits and starts, though. Its uneven tone is a product of thinly rendered characters; Luna’s inability to open up to Mink has no apparent origin, and is merely a problem generated by the plot. Why is she, you know, this way? Who knows. We don’t get nearly enough background on Luna and Mink – obvious or implied – to give them the type of internal, psychological motivation that determines how people function in relationships. But Luna and Mink aren’t really people anyway, they’re Movie Characters, driven by situations as they’re written in a screenplay.

The screenplay’s need for another draft or three is Happy Ending’s biggest issue. Otherwise, it’s a nicely shot film, naturalistic where similar American films are glossy and artificial, and the cast is game. Delima is notably strong as the one primary character who seems to be sure of herself; she brings an easy charm the movie where Jansen and Lakemeier seem to struggle with underwritten roles and tonal inconsistencies – the film halfheartedly dabbles with sitcommy supporting characters that tend to compromise its attempts at more serious drama. Ultimately, it’s a dramedy that isn’t as dramatic or funny as it could be.

Our Call: SKIP IT. Happy Ending takes a stab at being a keen exploration of the pitfalls of love, but it just never really works.

John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan.