The first thing you’re going to notice about Shortcut to Happiness is its incredibly famous cast. Helmed by Alec Baldwin we’ve got not only Anthony Hopkins but also Dan Aykroyd and Jennifer Love Hewitt among others. The next thing that’s going to pop into your mind is a question how come I’ve not heard of this movie? The reason for that is pretty simple. Shortcut to Happiness is at best an average and pretentious movie. Although the basic premise is good, the acting is mediocre and Alec was definitely not the right man for this type of character. However, the low-key atmosphere combined with sheer talent present here along with a decent story pushed this movie over the line.
Shelved for several years and then finally released in 2004, what we’re watching is a heavy edit by Bob Yari Productions. After this happened, Alex didn’t want to be mentioned as a director or producer. He stated that the edits severely compromised the quality and pacing of the movie. As fucked up as it is, it still offers a vibrant and distinctly turn-of-the-century atmosphere. There’s also some dark humor and romance to spice things up. Set in New York, you will easily recognize that Sex and the City atmosphere and not just because Kim Cattrall is part of the cast.
Meet Jabez Stone, a writer who just can’t get anything he writes published. To make things even worse, his friend Julius, also a writer, suddenly finds success. Tired of everything our poor Jabez is at his wit’s end. One faithful night, a beautiful woman offers him a deal: his soul in exchange for success. He accepts and this is where things start to change for the better for Jabez. However, there’s that other part of the deal that he seems to have forgotten about.
The infamous deal with the devil has been around for centuries. Also known as Faustian bargain or Mephistophelian bargain, the details about it and various people who supposedly took it are far more interesting than this movie. I know I’m being too hard on a cute little flick but I just can’t help it. The mediocrity of the end result of all these edits actually leaves a lot of room to think about the questions it raises. And not just the usual would you make a deal with the devil, but much deeper ones about success, jealousy and meaning of life. If you’re looking for similar movies I recommend Angel Heart and The Day of the Beast. And while those two are much darker, Faust: Love of the Damned and Spawn are just fun. Enjoy.
Director: Alec Baldwin
Writers: Stephen Vincent Benet, Archibald Macleish, Peter Dexter, Bill Condon, Nancy Cassaro
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Alec Baldwin, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Dan Aykroyd, Kim Cattrall, Jason Patric
Fun Facts: Sir Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin appeared in The Edge.