“The Happy” is a comedic look at racial stereotyping in action
“The Happy” is a comedy short film pilot written, directed, produced, and starring Par Parekh. Playing a fictional version of himself, recent Los Angeles transplant Par is the silent protagonist and witness to the absurdities of his new city, starting with his encounter with quirky hippy-lite characters like Astrid (Sherra Lasley).
When we are first introduced to Par, we see him taking big bites from a comically large beef rib before he is interrupted by a break-up text from his girlfriend. Heartbroken, Par decides to take the opportunity to go to a “hug therapy session”, offered by a flyer that randomly falls on his lap from the sky. In most films, this happenstance encounter would seem clumsy, but in the bizarre world of “The Happy” it’s only natural. Par mistakenly goes to the wrong house, however, and ends up meeting Astrid (think Eat Pray Love personified). Astrid immediately assumes from Par’s appearance that he is her “past life regression therapist” that she just so happened to be waiting for.
As Astrid gleefully invites Par into her home, we start to see how Astrid is a character who is a portrayal of the real-life experiences that Par has had. Astrid’s wrongful assumptions that Par is Hindu and that he’s a vegetarian (citing her “Google research” as evidence) are laughably misguided and embarrassing, yet true to Par’s experience. In fact, the ridiculousness of Astrid’s character would be totally unwatchable if she wasn’t played by an actress with great timing. Lasley completely stole the show by delivering her lines and actions with such natural ease that even an absurd character like Astrid felt like a real person. One scene in particular that showcased her ability was when she tried to make a “psychic connection” with Par by yelling “ohm” for 5 seconds and then instantly switching back to her character’s pushy dialogue without missing a beat. Using an actress in the role with less comedic timing would risk the collapse of the film’s intended comedy. Luckily, Lasley was perfect. Par’s silence also worked in tandem with Astrid, providing a great comedic foil to Lasley’s chatty character. Par perfectly embodies that feeling when you hear something so stupid that you are rendered speechless–that’s felt through his exaggerated facial expressions.
As the film progresses and the interaction between Astrid and Par goes further off the deep end, the editing matched the comedic timing well. Par Parekh as the editor did a good job at pausing for effect on some jokes and using rapid-fire cuts when he needs to deliver a gag that is more visual. Likewise, the film also looks surprisingly pretty. Every shot felt planned to match the joke the film wanted to tell at that moment: whether it be a close-up, an extreme wide shot, or even in some moments a dutch angle. However, if there was one aspect of the film that stood out for the worse, it was the awkward sound mixing and overused sound effects. Too often would there be canned, whipping sound effects to match certain actions and after a while it got distracting. For a film that made mostly correct comedic choices in every other aspect of the film, the sound mixing missed its mark.
Overall, “The Happy” is great and is definitely funny! Sherra as Astrid and Par as himself had great chemistry and their respective performances held the weight of the comedy well. The choice to use comedy as a genre to showcase a serious topic like racial stereotyping is a refreshing choice. By turning something offensive like the stereotypes that Par Parekh dealt with in his real life and dialing those experiences to a thousand through Astrid, we get to see how absurd it is to automatically assume things about other people.
Sometimes the best way to deal with ignorance is by laughing at it, and there’s definitely a lot of laughter to be had in “The Happy”.
Film pages: IMDb