December 2, 2015

The Happy Life: Big Dreams Resume at 40

When you hear "midlife crisis," you tend to think "disaster, catastrophe, mess..." But this term could also mean "turning point, crossroads, watershed..." Taking stock — and coming up short — in your 40s and 50s doesn't necessarily lead to making bad choices thereafter. Drastic changes aren't inherently bad. To Hell with the status quo is a timeless dictum! After all, you could really fall in love with someone half your age and not get bilked. Or you could really reform that rock band from college and attract a new, bigger fan base that digs your new tattoos and retro sound. On such fantasies are movies, like The Happy Life, made. Not that everything is honky dory once Active Volcano reassembles. The guitarist (Jeong Jin-yeong) is woefully unemployed; the bass player (Kim Yun-seok), undervalued and overworked; the drummer (Kim Sang-ho), balding and abandoned by his wife; the lead singer (Jang Keun-suk), the son of the original frontman, grieving the recent death of his dad—who stuck with his rock 'n' roll dreams only to end up a nightclub singer!

Perhaps that's the primary charm of Choi Seok-hwan's sweet-natured screenplay. Choi isn't saying that life's problems will be solved once you tap back into the enthusiasms of youth. Choi's simply suggesting that it may be better than not doing so. You'll still be underpaid, harried, overweight, and an orphan, but your life will have meaning again. And what more can you ask of a midlife crisis than a new direction that leads that way. Sure, you may look silly covering your bald pate with a bandana or mimicking the dress code of someone young enough to be your son, but if you haven't evolved far enough to not care if some people laugh at you (or if you can't laugh at yourself yet) then this midlife crisis is simply going to send you into a tailspin, an ever-downward spiral that only stops picking up speed when it finally hits the grave. Watch director Lee Joon-ik's The Happy Life instead. Before it's too late!

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