Cohabitation with your peers is always an interesting prospect. Especially during the high-stress college years. And even more especially when your roommate is quite consciously trying to sabotage your life. Such is the premise of “So Happy Together”, a (lightly) unsettling cautionary tale for college students everywhere on choosing the right roommate, guarding your space, and staying sane in the process. Shot in glorious black and white (perhaps for the effect), the film has a distinct film noir quality, complete with despairing voice-over and doomed hero. There’s no femme fatale to speak of, but perhaps ‘friend’ fatale is more like it.
Brian (Jon Murray) is an all-around good guy (responsible, intelligent, friendly, etc.) with one fatal flaw… his choice in friends. But in Brian’s defense, his roommate Neil (Kevin Miller) was never really his friend. Before moving in together, they were more like ‘friends of friends’ than actual buddies themselves; college acquaintances really. It was during a drunken conversation at a bar on one ill-fated night when Neil offhandedly remarked that it might be a good idea if they roomed together. Just as offhandedly, Brian said okay, thus sealing his own doom. You see, Neil isn’t just a complete slob, a total moron, and a privileged slacker. To Brian, Neil represents the worst of humanity: a “24-year old Hitler”, a diabolical mastermind, and a devious charlatan. Brian can deal with Neil’s obscene slovenliness and even his forgetting to pay the energy bill (which of course results in the heat being shut off in the heart of winter). These things are mild nuisances, nothing Brian can’t handle. But when his acceptance letter (or so he hopes) to Johns Hopkins Medical School never arrives, Brian starts to freak out. Meanwhile, in classic “What About Bob” fashion, Brian’s real friends insist that Neil is ‘just the nicest guy’ and that he is only paranoid.
So is Brian just imagining things or is Neil really trying to ruin his life? Alas, the film’s opening scene and its noir-ish structure kind of give it away. (We know what’s coming long before it actually does.) But no matter, “So Happy Together” still works in a darkly amusing sort of way and is surprisingly perceptive about the dynamics of 20-something males living together. Writer/director Tim Saccardo plays things straight for the most part, letting the actors do their thing with minimal interference. The casting of the film’s two leads was dead on. Jon Murray, as Brian, has a definite air of paranoid nebbishness about him. His portrayal of a young man coming apart at the seams, while understated, feels painfully authentic. Conversely, Kevin Miller, as Neil, has an appropriately annoying Tarantino thing going on, replete with grating voice and pronounced chin. (Actors as perfect for a role as Miller is here make you wonder if they’re even really acting or not.) Sure, this story’s been told before, but having survived the college dormitory experience myself (though mine was fortunately far less trying), I found this film both sharp and tremendously cathartic. (If you happen to find a copy on video make sure not to fast forward through the fake ‘previews’, they’re definitely worth seeing.)