This is Happening
In This is Happening, a pair of siblings from a dysfunctional family are tasked with trying to find a nursing home for their elderly grandmother. The task proves to not be so simple and a plethora of things pop up along the way that makes them realize they need each other as a family more than anything else.
While the basic premise for the film is pretty straightforward, the movie itself has little to do with it. Rather than being a funny adventure about tracking down their old Grandma, as she tries to fulfill a promise to her long dead dog, it's a story that's all about family, forgiveness, and figuring out what's best.
Things start off fairly simply with a brother and sister tasked by their father to put his mom (their grandma) into a nursing home. The brother is presented as the responsible one, while the sister is stoned out of her mind and only agrees to go along for her own ulterior motives. Obviously there are bumps along the road that send everyone on an adventure of some sort.
After bonding out of jail, their grandmother goes "on the run" to keep a promise to her long dead dog. She also, just so happens to be carrying a bunch of drugs the sister had left in the trunk. So they steal a car to try and find her before more trouble can happen...which of course makes MORE trouble down the road.
The end result is a movie that manages to hit all the checkboxes in this kind of story, but doesn't do it's own thing. You have the brother character who's in a relationship that CLEARLY isn't in his favor and he’s stuck in a rut, though thinks it’s what he NEEDS to do. Then you have the sister, who is the stereotypical stoner...to the point of being over the top. You’ve got the deadbeat dad, who’s let his kids lives go to shit without much guidance on his part, and the foul-mouthed grandma who doesn’t want to go to a rest home.
They’re all pretty cliche seeming and as such, it’s a little tough to buy into the characters and feel for them. This becomes especially apparent when they begin to do things exactly as you would imagine. There aren’t any big twists and turns in the story, and it’s pretty easy to predict what’s going to happen, ultimately between all their different arcs.
That said, the film can be a little dull, but despite the predictable/cliche nature of the characters and events, the actors manage to be likeable. The brother and sister feel like they the kind of sibling relationship you’d expect. It’s obvious they have problems and can hardly stand one another, but also clear that they love each other a great deal. It’s a strange dichotomy that’s true of any family, and plays out pretty accurately here. That doesn’t make it any LESS predictable, but it certainly makes it more watchable.
This is Happening pitches itself as a comedy adventure, sporting a foul-mouthed Cloris Leachman on the run from her grandchildren who are trying to get her placed in a rest home. The reality of the film, however, is much more of a drama than anything else. Sure, there are laughs here and there, but overall the humor isn't the driving factor in the movie.
Yet, the fact that it tries to present itself as more of a comedy than anything else makes it fall little flat in expectations. That's not to say it's entirely unfunny, but the humor felt more like a side-effect of the story and actions more than anything else. Because of this, it's difficult to buy into This is Happening as a comedy. Since it couldn't be what was expected of it, I found a more difficult time enjoying it for what it was. Perhaps that's my fault for failing to adjust, but I can see it being an issue with some others as well.
As such, it can be an interesting watch and I didn't feel like I wasted any time while watching it...but it doesn't have enough of a hook to really stay with me for long. It lacks a more powerful punch that will bring audiences back for more.