Happiness for Beginners review: a walk in the woods

Luke Grimes and Ellie Kemper in Happiness for Beginners

Happiness for Beginners, a feel good story written for the screen and directed by Vicky Wight, stars Ellie Kemper as a grown up serious woman. This is a new type of role for her and I enjoyed watching her exercise her drama skills.

Happiness for Beginners introduces us to Helen (Ellie Kemper) at her wedding with Mike (Aaron Roman Weiner). Her younger brother Duncan (Alexander Koch) and his best friend Jake (Luke Grimes) clearly don’t think Mike is the guy for her.

It’s obvious right from the start that Jake wants to be Helen’s guy but she regards him as her brother’s annoying friend and nothing more.

A few years go by and Helen’s divorce from Mike is coming up on a one year anniversary. She wants to finish letting go of the relationship and decides to do something adventurous that she’s never done before. Hike in the mountains for two weeks.

She signs up for a hiking tour with an experienced leader named Beckett (Ben Cook). The other hikers are played by Nico Santos, Shayvawn Webster, Julia Shiplett, Gus Barney, and Esteban Benito. And, surprise, Jake is there, too.

Luke Grimes, Ellie Kemper, Nico Santos, and Shayvawn Webster in Happiness for Beginners

Everyone has their own reasons for being in the wilderness sleeping in a tent for two weeks. Obvious to everyone but Helen is the fact that Jake is there to make sure Helen stays safe.

Helen is an English teacher back at home. We see her take command of the situation when one of the hikers breaks a leg. She’s also smart and resilient. Jake is a doctor, but he’s quit practicing.

The scenery is gorgeous. It’s fall. The leaves are turning and raining down on them like golden snow. Everyone has their own small epiphany about their own lives.

Luke Grimes and Ellie Kemper in Happiness for Beginners

Helen’s revelations include getting to know Jake without her brother around and discovering how he feels about her. Will she return the feelings?

I can’t omit the important detail that Helen’s grandmother Gigi (Blythe Danner) has a part in this story. #EldersRock, reader.

There’s no bad language, there’s no evil character. This is a true life, heartwarming story about finding yourself and maybe opening up to something new.

Watch Ellie Kemper be a serious actor, enjoy the gorgeous scenery, and feel good at the end. Not a bad plan.

You can see Happiness for Beginners on Netflix.

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