Happiness is a Four Letter word – Film Review

Shoes, champagne and lavish mansions – certainly that is the starter pack to the extravagant life of success and dreams fulfilled. What can shake a foundation so stable? Obviously, you forgot to include one main ingredient: a man.
Based on a novel by Cynthia Jele, Happiness is a Four Letter Word is a glamorised view of sisterhood as three best friends, Nandi (Mmabatho Montsho), Zaza (Khanyi Mbau) and Princess (Renate Stuurman) all come face to face with the idea of love, lust and what really matters. Surely, “no amount of cocktails can cure the stress that simultaneously unsettles their lives”.
It is a rather typical storyline but one that wins because it resonates. After all, Love is an age old story, probably the most requested story of all time. This particular story is easy on the eyes, with good quality shots and excellent directing. It also helps that each scene is staged in luxurious houses with beautiful lighting and décor. And, of course, they have all the elements one would typically expect in a saucy romantic dramedy – men: the good, the bad and the kind-of-but-not-really ugly.
Thinking about it, I would say that Jele really did a good job by making it a threefold story. The original story actually has four main characters, but the movie keeps it at three. By spreading love into three parts, it creates an anthemic message to some extent as the shades of this thing we call love (or lust) unfold. We get to experience how love affects us from different angles, but in such a way that the tone is kept balanced. This is because only the relevant parts of each of their stories are told; the parts that fit into the overall theme. Nobody has time for a threefold melodrama when you just want a good reason to chatter with your friends. Their stories serve more as a reflection, as they tackle the issue of fidelity, love and loneliness in their lives more than anything else. And even though it is a really romanticised take on love, the delivery is so real.
A lot of its realness is thanks to Khanyi Mbau. The thought of watching a movie that cast yet another socialite diva made me quite weary. To me it is like when they cast Kim Kardashian or Beyoncé in a filmonly to play the characters we already know them for, just to market a film. Overall, their performances are generally boring (sorry, Beyoncé fans, but it’s true). But honestly, I enjoyed seeing Khanyi play herself. She provides most of the comic relief and her delivery is natural and refreshing. So, Khanyi, if the shoe fits who should even complain?
This film may not be the most novel take on love ever told, but it provides a contemplative look at its effects, making Happiness is a Four Letter Word a solid chick flick. It gives us a glimpse of what makes love both ugly and exciting – but overall, it endears us to the pursuit and preservation of love as something that is worthwhile.

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