Mr. Happy Film Analysis
Trigger Warning: Attempted suicide, murder.
On March 20, 2015, VICE uploaded ”Mr. Happy” to their YouTube channel (which makes this analysis over four years late). The film stars Chance the Rapper, who plays Victor Bennett, a man that wants to kill himself, but can’t seem to do it. Ironically, in order to cure his unhappiness, Victor contacts Mr. Happy, a service that offers an easy way for one to arrange their murder. In fact, the film is absolutely full of ironies.
The film establishes Victor as an awkward loner, who is neurotic by nature. He’s absolutely broke with less than $200 in his bank account, he doesn’t have air conditioning, there is trash littered around his apartment, he browses the internet on what looks like an old Gateway computer and he has no close family to speak of (he does have an uncle that we’ll discuss later). Victor is spiraling after breaking up with his cheating ex-girlfriend. He meets an unnamed girl at the hardware store where he works and the two go out on a date and she murders him at the gas station while they are on the way to his uncle’s cabin.
The most obvious irony is that even though Victor craves death (so much that he racks up a $10,000 credit card charge to enlist the help of Mr. Happy), but at the same time he fears it more than anything. After paying Mr. Happy, he finds himself in shady situations and fears the men that he thinks are there to kill him. For example, he hallucinates that the plumber that knocks on his door is holding a large gun, but he is actually holding a plunger.
Another irony is that every time Victor experiences a bit of happiness, it is thwarted. He’s happy after he and the unnamed girl have sex, so much so that he’s singing in the shower, but it is thwarted when he knocks down the shower curtain. He is happy when he’s in the chatroom asking people to come to the art show, but it is thwarted when he realizes that the people in the chat room are not really his “friends.” He’s happy about asking the girl to go to his uncle’s cabin, but it is thwarted when he realizes that he doesn’t really know her well and that she’s likely to refuse. He is happy as he is filling his car with gas, but this is thwarted when he is killed. The very person that makes him happy, the unnamed girl, is the same one that takes his life.
There are several images and effects in the film that make it seem reminiscent of a horror film. The contrast between the computer and television images and the atmosphere make the environment feel uneasy. The Mr. Happy image, (a flashing, neon smiley face) flashes throughout the entire film. These elements can make the viewer feel anxious and hike up the suspense so that the murder itself isn’t scary, though it will take the viewer off-guard.
When I first watched this short film, I loved it, but I couldn’t understand why. I knew that the acting and the direction were great. But I didn’t understand what bigger picture it was trying to paint. When I rewatched it earlier this week, it brought to mind a quote from Almonte, a film maker and creator. He said that “It’s literally cheaper to die than it is to get therapy” (I’m not sure if he got this from somewhere else, but I heard it from him). Victor paid $10,000 for his death, while this seems like a hefty price, keep in mind that he will never need to pay this money back. Now imagine that Victor sought therapy instead. Victor works a part time job at a hardware store, so he isn’t getting benefits from his employer, nor can he afford an ACA healthcare plan. He would have to pay this money out of pocket. Even Talkspace, an affordable therapy alternative, costs about $49 per session. Over the course of a year, Victor will need to pay at least $2,500 for therapy. He can’t afford this with his current wages, which means that he would have to use a credit card, and would probably spend way too much time paying this all back. When even affordable therapy options are so expensive, it is not hard to sympathize with people that choose to take things into their own hands.