How to get ahead in advertising

 

THE HAPPIEST GIRL IN THE WORLD/CEA MAI FERICITA FATA DIN LUME: Directed by Radu Jude. Starring Andreea Bosneag, Doru Catanescu, Alexandru Georgescu, Diana Gheorghian, Violeta Haret, Club, IFI, Dublin, 100 min

Not too many Romanian comedies begin with a tune by the Pet Shop Boys. The lyrics of that band’s timeless Rent offer no obvious insights into what follows, but the film does, perhaps, share the Shoppies taste for the driest of dry irony.

The Happiest Girl in the World(if you’ve seen a Romanian film before you’ll guess the title is deliberately misleading) concerns Delia (Andreea Bosneag), an irascible young woman who travels to Bucharest to collect the car she has won in a competition sponsored by a juice company. There is, however, a catch. Before receiving the vehicle she must participate in a commercial. Her role is not so demanding. She has to sit at the wheel, juice bottle in hand, and explain that, yes, she is the “happiest girl in the world”. Somehow or other the task proves harder than it should be and – while stereotypically shallow advertising wonks fume – the shoot drags on into the dreary afternoon.

Students of British TV will detect shades of Jack Rosenthal’s Ready When You Are, Mr McGill in the scenario. But, whereas that play leaned towards a very English class of pathos, The Happiest Girl in the Worldis an altogether less sentimental affair. Saddled with argumentative parents, Delia, face like brewing thunder, manages (just about) to inspire sympathy despite her notable lack of energy.

The film is certainly somewhat dramatically inert. There is little else here but fights between the family and increasingly desperate efforts to film the commercial. Yet the monotony of the piece is almost certainly a key part of its sour aesthetic and, as events progress, the characters definitely get under your skin. Just ask the Pet Shop Boys about the virtues of Being Boring.