‘My Happy Ending’ Review: When Life Goes Off Script

Andie MacDowell plays a screen and stage star facing a cancer diagnosis in this film directed by Tal Granit and Sharon Maymon.

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By Ben Kenigsberg

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“My Happy Ending,” about an actress starting chemotherapy, is based on a play by the Israeli writer Anat Gov, who died in 2012. The stage version was understood as a reflection of Gov’s own feelings about approaching death and a frank effort to confront audiences with the realities of cancer. But the labored screen adaptation shows regrettably few signs of personal fire, and many signs of a work that has been sapped of the intimacy of live theater.

Directed by Tal Granit and Sharon Maymon, this Israeli-British coproduction is set in Britain, where Julia Roth (Andie MacDowell), a fading American film star who has just flopped in the West End, furtively turns up at a public hospital to undergo treatment for colon cancer. She hasn’t told her family of her diagnosis and is intent on keeping it secret, although Nancy (Tamsin Greig), her officious manager and friend, wants her to go public with it.

Because the hospital doesn’t do private rooms, Julia soon meets three other patients: a relentless optimist (Sally Phillips), a Holocaust survivor (Miriam Margolyes) and a mother in her 20s (Rakhee Thakrar). They explain aspects of chemo that the pampered Julia has tuned out from her doctors. They also invite her to join their group role-plays, in which they imagine getaways to forget the pain.

But at least onscreen, the fantasy sequences fall flat, allowing viewers too unrestricted an escape. It may also be that MacDowell lacks the range necessary to make sense of the script’s notions of Julia, who does not share the others’ perspective.

My Happy Ending
Rated R. Language and marijuana use. Running time: 1 hour 29 minutes. In theaters.

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