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With Jim Sabatini

Happy Valley

Happy Valley

Rated: No rating 
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: November 19, 2014 Released by: Music Box Films

Another incisive portrait of public scandal, insensitivity and humiliation from the maker of The Tillman Story and My Kid Could Paint That is pre-eminent cinema verite.

Amir Bar-Lev's ironically titled Happy Valley doesn't try to unmask a devastating figure like Jerry Sandusky (with his choice Second Mile labor of love project), assistant football coach at Penn State University (from 1969-1999) to the beloved philanthropist 'Joe Pa' Joe Paterno (known for the very successful graduation rate from his dedicated, clean program) about the same kind of actions which have tormented the Catholic Church over the last generation. It gets into the institutions and foibles of humanity, one that is hardly straight-forward.

A steady, prolific Bar-Lev understands and showcases a sport as a way of life, a religion, in traversing an expansive renowned State College with interviews and old clips sans Sandusky (who still avers his innocence) and the tricky notion around "it takes a village" when it concerns responsibility and trust. The way the events of 2011 unfolded with charges against Sandusky and Paterno's allegiance towards him finally leaving the latter dead of lung cancer (or for some of a 'broken heart') is depicted with even-handedness though talking heads voice loathing more than their share of disapproval not only around the indiscretions reported to University higher-ups without any prompt follow-up.

There's a certain ardent freshman with a backwards baseball cap in a dorm room who's made it a shrine to Nittany Lions pigskin prowess who is more than peeved about blame spreading way beyond Sandusky, whose adopted and excommunicated victim of a son, Matt, is the basis of compelling, deeply wrenching conversation.

The filmmaking presents thorny, touchy issues in a way that lets the frames magnify a polarizing phylactery, disillusionment in moving forward with a certain spiritual rebirth, a new hope behind a culture willing to forget, but not forgive as Paterno family members and numerous supporters still feeling the fervent cold flagellation of collateral damage.

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Happy Valley        A-                     A- 

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