Happiness for Beginners Review – an excruciatingly dull love child of Wild and The Big Year

By Marc Miller
Published: July 28, 2023 (Last updated: January 4, 2024)
2023 Netflix film Happiness for Beginners Review


Happiness for Beginners is an excruciatingly dull and patronizing love child of Wild and The Big Year that is virtually free of humor and anything remotely interesting.

Here is our review of the 2023 Netflix film Happiness for Beginners, which does not contain significant spoilers.

I sincerely believe I crossed paths with Happiness for Beginners as a way to come to terms with the fact that happiness matters in life. I used to think happiness was just a made-up word.

Something that movies, television, or books would use for dramatic effect. I would roll my eyes when someone fictional or real complained about not having it or not having enough of it.

After watching Vicky Wight‘s romantic comedy, I’ve concluded that I was wrong. Happiness can be real. Happiness is essential. Above all, happiness should never be unattainable.

That’s why I hope never to watch or stream another excruciatingly dull, patronizing, and utterly humorless movie like Happiness for Beginners again.

Happiness for Beginners Review and Plot Summary

Based on the 2015 novel of the same name by Katherine Center, Happiness for Beginners follows an English teacher named Helen Carpenter (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s Ellie Kemper).

She is a 32-year-old divorcee who decides to take a wilderness survival course a year after her divorce. Now finalized, she is ready to move forward following five years of marriage.

Helen has had a tough life. The only people in Helen’s life are her grandmother, Gigi (Blythe Danner), who raised her, and her little brother, Duncan (Black Bear’s Alexander Koch), stuck in a state of arrested development. After a marriage filled with infidelity and infertility, Helen may hold out too much hope that this Pennsylvania walkabout will bring her healing and self-discovery.

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Wright wrote the adaptation, and her film is an incredibly uneven experience. For one, the script thinks it’s a comedy, but it is a drama with lightweight actors delivering their confused lines in a half-assed manner.

The audience is treated to montages where each hiker is given a cutesy name with Hallmark Channel-level special effects and then to bland tropes taken from the romance playbooks.

Yet, each line is delivered with such a lack of sincerity that it seems Kemper is holding back any of her innate comic sensibilities. The rest of the cast has minor revelations that are meant to have some level of meaningful disclosure. However, most are shallow and brief.

The result is we never get to know any of the supporting characters besides some colorful comments.

Is Happiness for Beginners good or bad?

Happiness for Beginners is a bad romantic comedy. In part, Kempers’ Helen and Yellowstone’s Luke Grimes’ have very little chemistry. He plays Jake, who’s essentially a stalker, but since he looks like dreamy Kayce Dutton, it’s cute and not a felony.

The love interest stalking Helen to a survival hiking retreat sounds more like the premise for a film from Blumhouse than a romantic comedy.

That film would have been much more entertaining.

Is Happiness for Beginners worth watching?

Happiness for Beginners is not worth watching. This Hallmark Channel homage to the love child of Wild and The Big Year offers fun hiking facts like hiding food from bears and why not to stand on a log.

Those final two facts are the sole reason I have given Vicky Wright’s film one merciless star.

What did you think of the 2023 Netflix film Happiness for Beginners? Comment below.

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