IT HAPPENED IN L.A.: Wit & Realism In The Depiction Of Women
It Happened in L.A. is a refreshingly realistic portrayal of relationships, showing how we chase ideals that are often impossible to fulfill.
Michelle Morgan’s thought-provoking comedy, It Happened in L.A., follows Annette (Michelle Morgan), a strong-willed and honest woman who ends her relationship of five years with Elliot (Jorma Taccone) in search of the happiness she feels she is missing. The film is a wonderful observation of the fabricated nature of outward happiness.
The Importance of Opinionated Female Characters
One of my favorite aspects of It Happened in L.A. is the way Morgan wrote every character as their own person with their own opinions and issues. Morgan’s own character, Annette, is the best example of this. Even if you do not personally agree with all the opinions she holds, you will welcome a female character who doesn’t feel the need to go along with what everyone else expects of her, especially what men expect of her.
It Happened in L.A. manages to give all its main characters their own stories without bogging down the audience, and making anything feel less important. Even though Annette and Elliot’s story is central, I never once felt the other stories were pushed to the side.
Morgan’s writing perfectly blends realism and wit. The writing felt especially natural when characters had conversations unrelated to the overarching plot of the film. In real life, our conversations don’t stop just because something big is going on in our lives.
Seeing characters still feel like they were people going on with their lives and having seemingly random conversations with their friends made this film feel realistic, while also showcasing witty dialogue and giving added personality to all its characters.
I am looking forward to the future films Morgan writes, directs, or stars in. Her work here makes me excited for what she might do next, and how she might further the depiction of women in cinema as real people with real opinions and issues.
Fabricated and Real Happiness
It Happened in L.A. begins with Annette questioning her relationship with Elliot, as she compares their relationship to all their happy couple friends. As the film goes on, she realizes these so-called perfect relationships are actually worse than hers; only being kept together by lies and affairs.
During her time with Elliot, she met Ben (Robert Schwartzman) and deemed him the perfect answer to her problems, but once she is free from Elliot and pursues Ben, she comes to terms with the messy L.A. dating scene her friend Baker (Dree Hemingway) has been enduring for years.
The film heavily focuses on the notion that we are always chasing happiness, thinking what we have isn’t great enough. Morgan dives into this by showing how one couple’s fake happy front can cause all their friends to think the perfectly normal relationships they have are somehow not good enough.
I think the film did a wonderful job of showing that true happiness comes with its faults, and isn’t a smile constantly plastered across your face like a mask.
Reality Beats Fantasy
Elliot’s friend and co-worker Jimmy (Adam Shapiro) is always looking for the next girl he can mold to fit his ideal fantasy. It Happened In L.A. uses Jimmy’s disrespect for women having their own thoughts and opinions as a way for Elliot to realize how much he misses Annette, especially all the ways they would disagree.
After their breakup, Elliot beings seeing Ingrid (Margarita Levieva), a prostitute the group of friends observe at a bar in the opening scene of the film. Initially, Elliot is attracted to Ingrid because she is not overeager like the young women working as interns on the television show for which he writes. Their relationship develops into a sort-of friendship before Ingrid begins to show devotion in Elliot.
This scene is probably one of my favorites of the film. Closing in on Elliot’s face as Ingrid begins doting on him and telling him how amazing he is was an amazing choice, and it really shows the dread setting in as Elliot realizes he does not want someone mindlessly doting on him when he could have something real and messy with Annette.
Jorma Taccone’s performance is memorable throughout the film, but this scene is where he stands out. The subtlety of his realization makes it feel that much more real and affecting. This sequence reminded me of the scene in Elaine May’s The Heartbreak Kid (1972) where Lenny (Charles Grodin), after finally getting everything he thought he wanted, the camera comes closer and closer to his face, which displays all the repressed feelings of dread he has over his new life.
Conclusion: It Happened In L.A.
Michelle Morgan has comedic strengths similar to writers and directors such as Elaine May and Whit Stillman. The camerawork in It Happened in L.A. captures the essence of Los Angeles as well as the subtle dread of relationships. Morgan’s script is fast-paced and witty in the way of 20th century comedies.
Do you think Michelle Morgan manages to create realistic female characters in this film? Do you think female writers and directors are better able to craft realistic depictions of women?
It Happened in L.A. was released November 3rd in the US.
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