The Reel Review


Feeling lost after the end of her marriage, an unhappy woman takes a wilderness survival course on the Appalachian Trail to find joy, make some unlikely new friends, and learn some things about herself. Ellie Kemper (Bridesmaids, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) and Luke Grimes (Yellowstone) star in this romantic dramedy adapted from Katherine Center’s 2015 novel.

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

Like a well-worn trail map, there are very few surprises in writer/director Vicky Wight’s polite, predictable knockoff of Eat, Pray, Love. Kemper, known more for her comedic acting, does get to show off a more serious, nuanced performance as the grouch who gets her groove back, with Grimes as her younger brother’s best friend who is secretly crushing on her. The supporting cast is likable, albeit extremely predictable, one-dimensional characters, with Blythe Danner making a couple of appearances as her grandmother.

Luke Grimes and Ellie Kemper in Happiness for Beginners.

Despite its quickly forgettable, low stakes storytelling, Happiness for Beginners is still a sweet, feel-good film – comfort food for the soul. In addition to some tender, heartfelt moments and a nice message about making an effort to find the joy in each day, there also is some beautiful outdoor scenery if you don’t have time to see the great outdoors in person.


Happiness for Beginners is director Vicky Wight’s second adaptation of a Katherine Center novel after 2020’s The Lost Husband, starring Leslie Bibb and Josh Duhamel.

Michael Koman and Ellie Kemper

• Ellie Kemper is the great-great-granddaughter of Missouri banking magnate William Thornton Kemper. The Princeton graduate got her big break as Erin Hannon in the sitcom The Office. She has two sons with her husband, comedy writer Michael Koman.

• Ohio native Luke Grimes (American Sniper, Fifty Shades of Grey), the son of a Pentecostal pastor, currently stars as Kayce Dutton in the Western drama series Yellowstone.



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