Frank's enormous home is populated only by slacker son Otis (Jason Ritter), who locks himself in his room to jerk off to pilfered surveillance-camera footage of his boss, Charley (Steve Coogan). Otis keeps fooling himself into believing he's straight, hence his one-night fling with Jude. Father and son can barely look each other in the eye; theirs is a relationship conducted through conversations aimed at the floor. Father and son, like most of the folks in need of the movie's promised happy endings, are bound by their loneliness.
Frank sees in the carefree yet older-than-her-years Jude a chance at redemption and seizes the opportunity to lavish upon the heartbreaking huckster a world of wealth. The audience knows that Jude is offering only a phony kind of love -- writer-director Don Roos announces each character's intention with title cards that read like snarky asides -- but we also feel somehow satisfied that Frank, for the moment, is taking from her as much as she's swiping from him.
Other characters will be more damaged. There's Mamie (Lisa Kudrow), an abortion-clinic worker whose teenage sexual encounter with her stepbrother Charley left her with a child no one knows about and whose whereabouts remain a secret even to her. There's Nicky (Jesse Bradford), the aspiring documentarian who tries to blackmail Mamie with the location of her kid. And there's Gil (David Sutcliffe), Charley's lover, who has come to believe his lifelong pal Pam (Laura Dern) secretly used his sperm to have a child with her lover, Diane (Sarah Clarke). Having made The Opposite of Sex, about the fine line between true love and double-cross, Roos seems to have decided that it wasn't enough to have one hypocrite or charlatan in his movie. There's barely enough room in these 128 minutes for all of his characters to breathe, much less speak.
Yet Roos, whose last movie, Bounce, amounted to little more than loving close-ups of Ben Affleck trying like hell to squeeze out a tear, doesn't abandon or betray his creations. He adores them, even if he doesn't quite respect them. Nicky, especially, comes off as a creep, but like everyone else in Happy Endings, he's broken but salvageable. That's what happens when an eternal optimist makes movies about misanthropes who desperately want to love and be loved.