Happy-Go-Lucky

I recently watched the film “Happy-Go-Lucky,” the fictional story of a woman who is perpetually cheery. While many critics described the main character, Poppy, as annoying and carefree to the point of being saccharine, she was actually a very psychologically compelling woman.

Please note that this is not a movie review. I have no idea how to write those. In fact when I write a DVD review on my Netflix account, it usually looks something like this:

Star Wars is a really, really, really good movie. The Jedis were totally awesome and Princess Leia is smokin’ hot. If they allowed light sabers in the office I’d totally get one. Anyway, I’d highly recommend this movie to others.

No, this post is why we all, secretly or publicly, want to be like Poppy.

What makes Poppy unusual is that she is consistently living in the moment. She lives a life of responsible hedonism, enjoying every moment she has as if it could be her last while still caring for others in the process. Poppy laughs all the time, cracks an unusual number of jokes, enjoys her friends’ company, drinks and has sex when she wants. She is a free spirit. She doesn’t worry about what other people think of her and doesn’t fret over pointless trivialities. She essentially lives without cognitive distortions.

When I spoke to Dr. Gail about the movie, her take was that Poppy wasn’t “serious enough.” This is a short-sighted view and is usually stated by someone who is oozing with anxiety, fear and neurosis. Although Poppy constantly has a smile on her face she ensures that she lives a life of significance. She works as a teacher and influences children in a positive way. She tries to help others overcome their hang-ups and neuroses. At 30 years of age she knows that if there are certain things in life that she wants (e.g., children, 401K) she will need to take action at some point. But she also knows something that most of us forget: that tomorrow is no guarantee and, even if it is, she can be happy independent of what it brings. She has the wisdom of someone three times her age with the physical ability to take full advantage of her knowledge. Poppy is the exception to the famous quote, “youth is wasted on the young.”

Can anyone truly be like this fictional character? Probably not, as being neurotic is in many ways part of the human condition. While this is unfortunate Poppy’s take on human existence is something to which we should be aspiring. If you decide to check out the film and hate it feel free to let me know, but try not to deny the envy I suspect you’ll feel about her complete and total absorption of life.

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11 Responses to “Happy-Go-Lucky”

  1. Amanda says:

    I’m so pleased to hear your reaction to this film. I saw it last year in the UK and my friends and I spent the first half hour trying to figure out what was wrong with Poppy. Recently my mother watched it on demand and spent the first part of it asking me if she was dying. For me, it pointed out how cynical we all were. It was nearly impossible for all of us to accept that someone could be that genuinely happy and not have something physically or psychologically wrong with them. I’ve recommended it to a lot of friends and almost all have had the same initial response. What has been wonderful is that by the end of the movie most of us have come away feeling really inspired by her. Not envy so much as the feeling that none of us had even contemplated it was possible to live a life like that and it might be worth aiming for.

  2. nobody says:

    This character sparked an intense conversation in my home a couple days ago. Basically she was accused (by people oozing with anxiety, fear and neurosis, no doubt) of being condescending and hurtful towards the less “happy-go-lucky” characters, and that in being caught up in “living the moment” she was dismissive or at times ridiculing of people’s issues -she took the child’s problems seriously but not the adults’.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Is her name Polly or Poppy – or does she have a split pernsonality and that is part of the story?
    Dr. Rob: Oops. I think I’ve gotten all the names consistent now.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Can I pre-read and edit your book before it comes out? Your editing here sucks 🙂

  5. I have never seen this movie, but I can relate somewhat. At the age of 32, I can say that I have gone through several stages in my life that varied between living in the now and living for tomorrow. Now? I realize we may be getting tired of hearing economy woes, but I have to admit it has done good for me. I am actually stressing less realizing how much IS out of my control and just enjoying life with what I have.

  6. Yasmin says:

    Yes, I would love to be happy and able to live in the moment all the time like Poppy…but honestly, people’s neuroses are what make them interesting to me! I haven’t seen the movie, but I guess what I am saying is that while *I* would like to be like Poppy, I would not want to be friends with her. Does that make any sense?
    (PS – one little typo is not a big deal, Anon!!)

  7. Anonymous says:

    Actually Yas –
    I’ve been pointing out typos to the good Doc on and off for over a year! I’d stopped for a spell b/c I think it was pissing Rob off. But it’s my neuroses that compels me… don’t you find me interesting now?
    Anon

  8. The Edge says:

    I wouldn’t want to be friends with Poppy either, unless I was like her. The envy would get to me. If I were like Poppy, I would probably prefer to be friends with non-neurotics.

  9. Jenny says:

    I watched the movie yesterday based on your recommendation. While I agree with your opinion in general, I did find that Poppy’s character was a bit one-dimensional and didn’t really resonate with me on a deeper level. I definitely appreciate the sentiment of being joyful in life and “not sweating the small stuff”, but there wasn’t an instance where it felt like she was particularly contemplative. Personally, I feel like being able to experience a range of emotions that the human experience offers is important and amazing, even if it is hard at times, and I really don’t think there is anything cynical about that.

  10. […] I’m not reviewing the film but feel free to click here for my mind-bogglingly awesome coverage of Star […]

  11. […] as a shrink and does it quite well. In some ways he is a real-life version of the main character in Happy-Go-Lucky, save for the fact that John probably has Syphilis and she did […]

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