There’s a lot to be said for a 78 minute romantic comedy.
These things aren’t complicated, despite Hollywood’s poor batting average with the genre.
Cute couple, cute banter, “how we met” bits, obstacles to their love parked at strategic points, funny BFFs or relatives, happy ending.
Jared Stern’s “Happy Anniversary” could not be simpler. It shows its cards with every new one dealt from the deck. But a winning couple, clever dialogue and funny support win the day in this tale of a third anniversary gone wrong.
Mollie, given her usual winsome wit by Noël Wells (“Mr. Roosevelt”) is the perfect match for Sam (Ben Schwartz of “Parks and Rec”). They cringe at the same things, like the couples night pretensions of Lindsay (Kate Berlant of “The Characters”) and Hao (Leonardo Nam of “The Perfect Score,” “West World”).
“Lindsay? We went to COLLEGE together.”
“Buncha people went to art school with HITLER. But eventually they moved on.”
They delight in playing chicken with the automatic parking gate as they drive their Prius home each night, the joys of Donnie their Boston Terrier and bickering that involves a lot of profanity, a little brinkmanship and make up sex that includes role playing.
But on their third anniversary as a couple, Mollie isn’t impressed with his breakfast in bed pitch, and not because he cracks “Your breath smells like catfood.”
No, her foreplay on their special day is “I’m not happy.”
That sets off an argument, a break-up just as Sam and pal Ed (Rahul Kohli, funny) are about to pitch their T-shirt design firm to retailers. A day of dorky drama, flashbacks to the night they met, their first date, miscommunications and moments of heart ensues.
She wants “the most perfect version of imperfectness” in their relationship.
He wants less drama — “You get off on unhappiness.”
The flashbacks are adorable — meeting at a bar as he’s looking for his Internet date, his promise, after flirting, that he will be “thinking about you the whole time,” as he goes through the date, the fights over what they don’t have in common.
“You sugar coat things!”
“I’ve seen less sugar on a Krispy -Kreme!”
“This is about ‘the baby thing,’ isn’t it? You don’t think I’m baby-worthy. You’re letting a person who doesn’t even exist get in the way of our relationship!”
Wells and Schwartz click, their exchanges are sparkling fresh.
Annie Potts makes a warm impression as her distracted but supportive mom, Joe Pantoliano hits the Italian immigrant undergoing chemo and hoping to live long enough to attend Mollie’s wedding a little too hard.
“Stage-a four. Got’a PLENTY of time.”
We know where it’s going before it gets there, but a game cast act as if they don’t. But they know there’s no heavy lifting here, and they make something that should be easy feel and especially sound easy.
Amazing how few rom-coms manage even that.
MPAA Rating: TV:MA
Cast: Noël Wells, Ben Schwartz, Rahul Kohli, Annie Potts, Joe Pantoliano
Credits:Directed by Jared Stern. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:18