July 25, 2005 12:00 PM

Lisa Kudrow, Steve Coogan, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Tom Arnold

Lisa Kudrow could recite the multiplication table and she would imbue those numbers with nuance, neurosis, wit and traces of deep hurt. Here, the talented Friends star reteams with writer-director Don Roos, for whom she last worked in 1998’s wonderful The Opposite of Sex, to portray an L.A. divorcée who decides to track down the now teenage son she gave up for adoption as an infant. Her character’s tale is but one of a half-dozen overlapping stories crammed into Happy Endings, an often amusing, occasionally affecting picture.

Though the movie at times grows giddy with its own cleverness (like the title cards that pop up to spell out character’s futures), much of Endings is indeed smart, and it overflows with exceptional performances. Besides Kudrow, standouts include Gyllenhaal as an avaricious opportunist, Tom Arnold (yes, that Tom Arnold) as a wealthy businessman whom Gyllenhaal gloms onto, Jesse Bradford as a manipulative filmmaker who hints to Kudrow that he has information about her son and Steve Coogan as Kudrow’s gay stepbrother, a man with a gift for making life so much more complicated than it ever needs to be. Not all these folks get a happy ending, but viewers do.(R)


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