Getting ahead in the world can be tough. Family, friends, work and simply staying afloat in today's world requires hard work and more than a little luck. Funny I should mention that, "luck" that is. When you consider that more and more, luck is becoming "the" deciding factor to both acquiring the essentials of life, and maintaining them. So what happens if you do everything right? Good things of course. Everything can be golden and slowly continue to reach the platinum level until: Suddenly you hit a wall and SPLAT! Most people have a few bumps in this thing we call life, but what if that "bump" is so massive, you can't see over the hilltop? The answer is simple. You try harder right? With that in mind we begin the journey that is "The Happiest Place On Earth" from writer, director John Goshorn.
Maggie and Jonah Price have just purchased their first home and are working on starting a family. Life is good for the young, successful graphic artist and his wife until... it simply isn't. True to non-movie life, Jonah gets the boot and ultimately can't seem to find a job that pays enough to maintain the mortgage. The stress on this new, fledgling family mounts and Jonah, to clear his head, takes a weekend camping trip. We all know the root problems in many a relationship stem around money, and sometimes a good vacation can do wonders for the brain. I'm guessing John Goshorn knew this as well when he penned it into his script. A perfectly natural excuse for an excellent plot set-up. Bottom line? Jonah vanishes and after a time is declared dead. What's the point of that? The insurance money of course. The life blood of countless stories in the world of film.
That's right ladies and gents. You've seen this story before and will no doubt see it again: Man vanishes. Man is declared dead. Woman, or in this case wife, attempts to collect the insurance money. The only real question remaining is if Josh is actually dead? Is so, who killed him? As Maggie outwardly mourns her husband, and attempts to survive while waiting for her settlement, we, the viewers get to try and piece together what happened while slowly, letting the talented cast finish the story. That's the short and long of this film. Familiar yet interesting none the less.
I'm not going to lie. After hitting that play button and seeing the opening segment, I quickly formed an opinion that was less than stellar. Running through my mind: Great. Another shaky, bouncy film where someone figured a tripod, at the very least was not needed to make a movie. I hate films with the "Blair Witch" syndrome. If I wanted to see a shaky video I'd grab my phone and run down the street recording. Long story short? I held very little expectations. However, as happens from time to time, this non-locked style actually worked for this title. Chalk it up to some good editing, or maybe just the script itself but, and I hate to admit it, the visuals didn't really bother me. The scenes progressed nicely as the story pushed forward, and I was truly "into" this indie film. Maybe it was the familiarity of the story or maybe it was the cast themselves, that did such a good job convincing me they were in fact... their respective characters and not actors, that I simply didn't care. Either way when it comes to the visuals... they weren't really a distraction for me. That's pretty much all she wrote on that subject.
My only "iffy" aspect of this film came in the form of one segment close to the end. The entire "house cleaning" sequence made absolutely no sense to me and quite frankly, I don't understand why it was even included. It served no purpose pushing the story forward, added a slight lag to the run-time and actually, came through as a little... well... weird. It implied, to me, that our leading lady was... I don't know... looking for love in all the wrong places? Aside from being no lead-up to that previously, I couldn't help but wonder how, in any way, that was a good addition to the story? The scene really had no place in the film for me. No place at all. On a brighter note, I simply loved the little clues scattered around the start of the film. Clues such as the husband, Jonah, revealing what his Mother used to do to save some cash. You'll need to watch the film to understand, but what a great way to plant a seed!
Overall, this was a really impressive film. When you consider how much I really don't like the visual style, you need to think how much the other elements impressed me in order to get the rating, and opinions I have. I always love it when I can champion a true low budget indie film, that truly deserves to be championed. A feather in the cap for all independent filmmakers... it can be done. It can be done well. See you on the beach.