The Happy Housewife (2010)
Directed by: Antoinette Beumer | 100 minutes | drama | Actors: Carice van Houten, Waldemar Torenstra, Joke Tjalsma, Maike Meijer, Willem de Wolf, Eric van der Donk, Jaap Spijkers, Isis Cabolet, Annemieke Aalderink Bakker, Rene van ‘t Hof, Myranda Jongeling, Marcel Hensema, Martijn Nieuwerf, Lotje van Lunteren, Catharina Haverkamp, Reinier Bulder, Anke Engels, Rik Launspach, Dorijn Curvers, Bert Luppes, Menno van Beekum, Gijs de Lange, Duuk van Rens
Can going to the cinema lead to postpartum depression? Yes, that’s possible. In the adaptation of the bestseller ‘The Happy Housewife’, we see a horrific delivery that pushes lead character Lea and the unsuspecting viewer into a postnatal crisis. But where the visitor slowly recovers, in Lea’s case it leads to a forced admission to an institution. There she must come to terms with family, traumas and weak genes.
The result is a film that is less dramatic than you would expect. ‘The Happy Housewife’ alternates witty scenes with drama, with the funny scenes in the majority. That’s a good thing, because the drama is too trite to really captivate. As believable as Lea’s spiritual demise may be, its effect does not surprise for a moment. In the facility, we find the comforting crazies of so many other movies (“Too Crazy to Run,” “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest”), the psychoses evoke chewed-up horrors, and the mother is the time-honored busybody who suffocates her children under the good care. The intrusive music enhances the drama, which sometimes leads to an overdose of pathos.
On the comedic front, the movie is much better. The funny thing is sometimes in the dialogues, sometimes in the situations, sometimes in both. Main character Lea is a smooth-mouthed type, who hides her vulnerability under a layer of sarcasm and playfully expressed disinterest. Husband Harry’s humor is mainly in his male triviality. There are also hilarious confrontations between the inhabitants of the institution.
And then the acting. Carice van Houten covers a wide emotional spectrum here, although her character isn’t even that interesting. Remarkably enough, the modest scenes make the most impression. It is the introverted moments that make you long for more mature and reserved roles for super talent Van Houten. A super talent that is supported here by a great cast.
Despite the pre-made drama, ‘The Happy Housewife’ is a film that captivates for the full 100 minutes. Thanks to good jokes, good acting and a single stray sob. Recommended, unless you are pregnant or have plans in that direction. Giving birth is not a picnic. We will never forget that.