Yesterday, Vice released a short film entitled Mr. Happy, directed by Collin Tilley and starring Chance The Rapper. Chance plays Victor, a depressed loner who comes across a website called MrHappy.com which provides an unusual service: you can hire a hitman to kill you. I’m a big fan of Chance since he became nationally known through his hit mixtape Acid Rap last summer, so naturally I was excited to see the film. Chance’s lyrics capture a type of angst, or insecurity that is so hard to encapsulate, so, after reading a quick blurb, it was clear this role was tailor-made for him. Mr. Happy would be the stage for Chance to showcase his abilities as an artist, one who can cultivate a particular mood or aesthetic and make it his own. He appears to have the qualities to make it as an actor as well as a musician, in the mold of a Tyrese Gibson or Mos Def.
The film follows a familiar plotline, the loner is alone, then he meets a girl, then he’s not so alone. However, there is the twist that Victor, Chance’s character, has hired someone via MrHappy.com, to kill him on February 14th. It had to be Valentine’s Day. Really? Of course, he experiences some serious buyer’s remorse, and wants to nullify his purchase, which, of course, is not very easy to do. I will refrain from spoiling the conclusion, but I will say it becomes excruciatingly obvious how things will unfold halfway through the film. Disappointment is the feeling you get when your team loses, or when you open the fridge and there’s no water in the Brita. It was not disappointment I felt after watching Mr. Happy — it was something else. Some middle ground between annoyance and scorn. Instead of resisting cliches, Mr. Happy wallows in them.
The film put all of its substantial weight on the shoulders of Chance, who clearly was expected to carry the entire piece. But his character came off as an anti-person and the awkwardness with which he conducted himself quickly became unbearable, he was impossible to sympathize or connect with at any level. It felt as if Tilley was trying to create a Mersault-like character in Victor, but, perhaps because of the confined time-frame, it fell flat. Chance had a few bright moments, but his character was written so strictly that it stifled any personality that Chance tried to infuse into the role. Mr. Happy embodies everything that is unpalatable about short films. Oblique, half-formed meanings pervaded, cardboard characters were smoke screened with trendy editing techniques. It attempts to say more by saying less, but ultimately says nothing at all. You can see for yourself below. — COLE NOWLIN