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Quiet ‘Happened’ peeks at ’90s dating

By Daily Bruin Staff

October 5, 1994 9:00 pm

Quiet ‘Happened’ peeks at ’90s dating

Sundance Film Festival favorite succeeds with heartfelt, honest
plot

By Michael Horowitz

Daily Bruin Senior Staff

"What Happened Was" quietly presents itself as a funny, witty,
romantic date movie. The winner of the 1994 Sundance Grand Jury
prize is all of these things, but to try to capture its’ tone in
the same phrase you’d use for, say, "Only You" would be a
disservice to this film. This movie subtly explores an
often-uncomfortable date with a touch for reality many feel-good
films would jettison. It is funny, it is witty, but it’s also sad,
shocking, and anxious.

Tom Noonan, best known for playing psychotic villains in
adventure films ("Last Action Hero" and others), decided to write a
real first-time date between two characters who, unlike leads in
larger budgeted fare, take more than ten minutes to reveal
themselves. Noonan and Karen Sillas play Michael and Jackie, two
law office employees who keep surprising themselves and the
audience with disquieting revelations. Both are not necessarily
successful, but their job descriptions would belie their ambition
and their dreams. On the other hand, no one really knows where
their lives go after 5 p.m. and before 9 a.m. the next day.

"What Happened Was" is a film that would never exist in a studio
utopia, but it’s a film festival dream come true. It never rushes,
it’s never forced and it ends with you caring deeply but feeling
sorry for Michael and Jackie. The dialogue is carefully crafted and
real enough to never take you out of the story. Basically, it’s the
result of a nurtured project come to fruition for Noonan, who
stayed in control of the entire film.

If you need a car chase, or even a plot development every ten
minutes, "What Happened Was" might not be the film for you. But if
you enjoy character-driven stories with limited aims and realistic
themes, Noonan’s quiet masterpiece is just the film to discuss over
coffee.

FILM: "What Happened Was." Written and directed by Tom Noonan.
Starring Karen Sillas and Tom Noonan. Now playing.

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