Happiness Runs

When you’ve been raised in a hippie commune, how do you rebel? Especially when mom’s still having loud threesomes and dad is more likely one of two leaders (Rutger Hauer and Mark Boone Junior) who have spent two decades hypnotizing, seducing and robbing the womenfolk. According to this ’80s period piece, teens take up selling drugs and punk rock, and even so their odds of escaping sane and unscarred are slimmer than a hit of acid. There’s more boobs than brains in Adam Sherman’s semi-true tale of heedless, bored debauchery-it’s the Kids of the campfire-but Strand Releasing hopes this salacious but dull drama will draw in the curious who wonder how paradise can turn into hell on earth.

Sherman opens his flick with a retro newsreel montage about the start of the commune-ist era, when idealistic men and women flocked to cheap land and recreated (or really, reinvented) an agrarian, egalitarian utopia that never actually existed. The hippies came close-at least, for a few years-and in these opening minutes, it’s easy to see why so many answered the call of the flower child. Who knew? Maybe this utopia could work, since its roots were deep in self-analysis and feminist theory, and the sexual revolution. These founders were smart kids and some had the money and ambition to make it happen.

The flick flashes forward two decades. Those moony teens and twentysomethings now have teens of their own, and just like their parents they’re a mess. The grown ups-the truly devout who never matured out of the camp-are narcissists who only passingly school their kids in formalities like how to roll a joint and the etiquette of setting the table for a dinner party orgy. Hanna Hall is a promiscuous self-cutter, Kirsten Berman an angry punk rocker, Jesse Plemons a drug dealer-a gig as mundane on the commune as a job at McDonald’s would be outside. Mark L. Young is the most normal of the bunch-we assume Sherman has channeled his own commune childhood into him-but he’s got his own problems. Not only is his first love, Hall, dating Plemons, but mom Andie MacDowell is in a constant fog enabled by Mark Boone Jr., the sandal clad despot who, along with Rutger Hauer, tends to the women of the camp like an ant sucking the nectar from an aphid. And these aren’t teens of the innocent ’60s-their rebellion is from peace to hate, as though the punk rock movement spawned as much from the farms of Maine as the alleyways of London. They’ve taken free love to mean cheap, and Hall flings herself at anyone willing for an hour of distraction.

Sounds sexy but, despite the tits on display, this is a moralistic emo snooze. We get the broad strokes of how the hippies corrupted their own movement, but there isn’t a single lead character we’d give a dollar to on Haight Street. In the margins, we see the even younger kids pop up in trees, as wild and rabid as squirrels-too young to mope, we’d rather hang with them. But we’re stuck with the teens and as they’re desperate for the next quick fix thrill, so are we. What we both really want is meaning. And unlike everything and everyone else in this utopia-gone-wrong, that’s not for sale.

Click here for Happiness Runs in Boxoffice Magazine

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