I wanted to turn this movie off for the first 30 minutes or so and that’s because of Poppy (Sally Hawkins), the deranged optimist that the movie follows. Writer/director Mike Leigh’s latest semi-improvised tale following the English working class centers on a primary school teacher who makes the conscious choice to be happy in life, no matter what life throws her way. Her presence is somewhat exhausting, like a customer who doesn’t know when making jokes has gone from fun to downright annoying. But you know what? Poppy eventually won me over, and I’m all but positive it was the scenes of her and her raging, pessimistic, tightly wound driving instructor (Eddie Marsan) that did it. Before their first driving lesson, I felt like the movie was giving me a slice-of-life that I was hesitant about; Poppy, like anyone who is insanely happy, can be grating. The humor is extremely dry and most of the clever dialogue exchanges will likely go by unnoticed because the actors aren’t delivering big punch lines. Hawkins goes all-out as the unflappable Poppy and she will make you smile through sheer force of will. This was a film I liked more by the time it was winding down, perhaps because Poppy might be easier to take knowing that time is coming to a close much like spending time with a distant relative during the holidays.
Nate’s Grade: B