Happiness for Beginners (2023)

Happiness for Beginners (2023)


A sanitized and predictable rom-com that wastes its lead actor’s charisma



United States of America
English, Italian
Adventure, Comedy, Romance
Ben Cook, Ellie Kemper, Esteban Benito
103 min


A slightly better-made Hallmark movie, if I’ve ever seen one.

What it's about

Helen Carpenter (Ellie Kemper) signs up for an intense camping trip but gets more than what she bargained for when she’s joined by an eclectic group of campers that includes her brother’s best friend Jake (Luke Grimes).

The take

Sanitized, predictable, and utterly cheesy, Happiness for Beginners feels like one of those TV movies made to fill the time in between the stuff people actually watch. It’s baffling how wasted Kemper is here; the actress’ signature pep, which was fully utilized in shows like The Office and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, is nowhere to be found. She plays a grump who, by the sheer power of love and friendship, transforms into a happier person, but even then we see no trace of Kemper’s infectious energy. It was hinted that Kemper’s character, Helen, struggles with depression, but the film is either unwilling or incapable of digging further and offering Helen actual solutions, like therapy or medicine. The movie’s saving grace is the ensemble behind Kemp, who thankfully are able to exercise their comic chops. Nico Santos, Ben Cook, and Gus Birney deserve a special mention for their full-bodied and entertaining performances.

What stands out

To be fair, I’ve learned a lot of useful things about hiking and the wilderness. I’ll be thinking about this movie a lot if I ever get lost in the middle of the woods. If you’re looking for a solid romantic comedy, you can skip this one. But if you’re looking to prep for you upcoming camping trip? This could come in surprisingly handy.


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