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For Crying Out Loud: Mitchell Lichtenstein’s “Happy Tears”

For Crying Out Loud: Mitchell Lichtenstein's "Happy Tears"

With the possible exception of the post-Tarantino crime thriller, has any genre been as good to American independent film over the past 20 years as the family dramedy? One can hardly begin to count the stories of estranged children, bickering couples, or wayward siblings who all end up back under the same roof: crying and laughing and truth-telling their way to moist-eyed emotional equilibrium, if not redemption. It’s no mystery why these films keep popping up. For budget-conscious directors, dialogue-heavy screenplays set in a limited number of everyday locations keep the costs down. At the same time, stars looking to bolster their thespian credentials often jump at the highly emotive, de-glammed roles that populate these scripts, and at a reduced price to boot. Beyond industrial considerations, however, they hold appeal for viewers who like largely conventional films accented with indie flavor. These movies’ slightly looser, observational narratives and less polished visual style allow them to stand apart from their Hollywood counterparts, while still casting a wide net in terms of audience relatability. (We all have families, right?) Given all this, it’s little wonder that so many of these films have been made, and consequently, how the characters and situations routinely seen within them have hardened into generic formula. Read Matt Connolly’s review of Happy Tears.

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