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Film / Shortcut to Happiness

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Shortcut to Happiness is a 2007 film adaptation of the Stephen Vincent Benet classic short story The Devil and Daniel Webster. It stars Alec Baldwin, Jennifer Love Hewitt, and Anthony Hopkins. Baldwin also directed the film.

In Manhattan, ambitious writer Jabez Stone (Baldwin) is a complete loser. He is not able to sell his novels, he lives in an awful apartment and he does not have success with women. When one of his friends, Julius Jensen (Dan Aykroyd), sells his novel for one hundred ninety thousand dollars to an editor, Jabez feels envious and promises to sell his soul to the devil for success and accidentally kills a woman with his typewriter. The devil (Love Hewitt) knocks on his door, fixes the situation, and seals a contract with Jabez. His low-quality novels have bad reviews but become best-sellers; Jabez enriches; he has success with women, but he has no time for his friends. Jabez meets with publisher Daniel Webster (Hopkins), who offers him a chance to break the contract with the devil.

Tropes in Shortcut to Happiness include:

  • Accidental Murder: When his typewriter breaks as the last piece of a Humiliation Conga, Stone snaps and flings the machine out his window. Where it kills an old woman walking by on the street below.
  • Achey Scars: The scar at the base of the Devil's spine where Daniel Webster cut off her tail is still sensitive. So much so, in fact, that she flinches away just as Jabez Stone is about to touch it.
  • Alliterative Name: Julius Jenson
  • Animated Credits Opening: Features an animated Jennifer Love Hewitt wreaking havoc on the opening titles, and the titles fighting back.
  • Appliance Defenestration: When his typewriter breaks as the last piece of a Humiliation Conga, Stone snaps and flings the machine out his window. Where it kills an old woman walking by on the street below.
  • Balloonacy: In the Story Within a Story that opens the film, Johnnie attaches balloons to his new bicycle—which he sees as the cause of all of his problems—to cause it to float away. At the end of the film, the bike is seen floating above Manhattan. In both cases, it is probably intended to be symbolic.
  • Battle Trophy: In one of their earlier encounters, Daniel Webster cut off the Devil's tail. He now has it framed and hanging on his office wall.
  • Car Fu: The Devil causes Julius to be run down by a taxi cab. Webster's narration refers to it as "the Devil's chariot".
  • Carpet of Virility: After his Deal with the Devil makes him irresistible to women, Jabez Stone has flings with a lot of different partners, resulting in many shots of Alec Baldwin's very hairy chest.
  • Deal with the Devil: Stone sells his soul to the Devil for 10 years of success.
  • Dramatic Thunder: When, during a fit of pique, Jabez Stone declares that he would sell his soul to trade places with Julius Jensen, there is a single bolt of lightning from a clear sky and a dramatic crack of thunder.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: After his Deal with the Devil, Stone finds women lusting after him. At his book launch, he notices one of the male waiters eying him suggestively.
  • Evil Is Petty: After two kids on scooters almost collide with the Devil, she causes them to crash. When Stone objects, she airily replies that she should have set them on fire.
  • Falling into His Arms: Not romantic (for obvious reasons), but when Johnnie falls out of the barn in the Story Within a Story that opens the film, he lands in his father's arms.
  • Going Commando/Vapor Wear: The Devil reacts angrily to Stone's scar survey, and rolls out of bed naked, pulls on her trenchcoat, and storms out of the apartment with nothing on underneath it.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Jabez Stone is jealous of the success his friend Julius Jensen is having: having just signed a three-book deal for a huge amount of money. At the end of an extreme Humiliation Conga, he yells to the sky that he would sell his soul to trade places with Julius Jensen. Then there is a crack of thunder and a knock on the door...
  • Heel Realization: Mike visits Stone to tell him something important, but never quite manages to get it out because they keep being interrupted by Stone's entourage. Thinking his friend needs money, Stone offers him cash. Mike gets angry and storms out. It is only then that Stone puts the clues together and realizes that Mike was trying to tell him he was dying, and that he has just blown off his dying best friend in favour of a photoshoot for Architectural Digest. It's further hammered home when Kee tells him "the light's gone" (referring to the photoshoot). Stone realizes that the light is gone from his life and he has become a horrible person. He starts trying to put things right before his 10 years are up and the Devil comes to collect on her deal.
  • Hot as Hell: The Devil is played by Jennifer Love Hewitt and first appears to Jabez Stone wearing a Little Black Dress with Navel-Deep Neckline: all revealed by Sexy Coat Flashing. And she seals the bargain for his soul by sleeping with him.
  • Humiliation Conga: In the space of one day, Jabez Stone loses his job (for being nice to a customer); has his manuscript rejected by his idol Daniel Webster; learns his best friend has just signed a three-book deal with a lucrative advance that will increase with each subsequent book; discovers he is broke due to a spiteful act of his Jerkass brother; is mugged by a gang that severely beats him and steals the laptop containing the only copy of the manuscript for his novel; tries writing on his old electric typewriter only for it to break, and finally he flings the typewriter through his window where it hits an old woman in the head and kills her. Small wonder he accepts the Devil's offer to buy his soul.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Early in the movie, Mike tends to cough every time he lights up a cigarette. This leads to a Running Gag between him and Stone, as every time he does this, Stone sarcastically tells him to "have another cigarette". Eventually, after a particularly bad coughing fit, Stone takes the cigarette out of his mouth and throws it away. The viewer later learns that this was the moment when Mike quit smoking. However, the coughing is an early symptom of the lung cancer that eventually kills him.
  • Jury of the Damned: The Jurors in Stone's trial are dead authors, including Truman Capote, Jacqueline Susann, Ernest Hemingway, Mario Puzo, Charlotte Brontė, and James Joyce.
  • Little Black Dress: When the Devil turns up to buy Jabez Stone's soul—a deal that is sealed by the two of them having sex—she is wearing a little back dress with a Navel-Deep Neckline, which she reveals to him via Sexy Coat Flashing.
  • Madness Mantra: After learning that his friend Julius has been given a $190,000 advance for his next novel, and then being mugged and having his laptop (which contains the manuscript for his own novel) stolen, Stone breaks down, hauls his old electric typewriter out of the closet and starts typing 'ONE HUNDRED AND NINETY THOUSAND DOLLARS' over and over again on a sheet of paper. Then the typewriter breaks and he resorts to Appliance Defenestration.
  • Navel-Deep Neckline: The night the Devil buys Jabez Stone's soul, she is wearing a Little Black Dress with an extremely plunging neckline: all revealed by Sexy Coat Flashing.
  • No Fame, No Wealth, No Service: Jabez starts the film working in a high-end men's clothing store. He gets fired for serving an old man who his supervisor does not think is wealthy enough to be shopping there. As a final act of defiance, he buys the tie the old man was interested in and gives it to him as a gift.
  • Reset Button: The jury declaring Stone's contract null and void seemingly undoes all of the events of the movie, with Stone suddenly finding himself back before he made his Deal with the Devil, with Julius still alive and presumably everything else undone as well.
  • Rich Jerk: Jabez's brother Dick. A wealthy Wall Street type, he flaunts his wealth in the face of brother, who is a struggling writer. He arranges an extremely expensive anniversary present for their parents—knowing that Jabez will never be able to contribute to it—insisting that he just wants everything to be 'perfect'. And when Jabez writes a token cheque to contribute to the cost, he cashes it even though he must know that doing so will leave his brother broke.
  • Scar Survey: When Stone wakes up next to the Devil after having sex, he runs his finger along the perfect skin of her back, only to find an ugly scar at the base of her spine where her tail was cut off. She reacts angrily and refuses to discuss the scar.
  • Setting Update: Of The Devil and Daniel Webster.
  • Sexy Coat Flashing: While making her deal with Stone, the Devil strips off her orange leather trenchcoat to reveal a Little Black Dress with a Navel-Deep Neckline underneath.
  • Sexy Shirt Switch: When Stone and one his groupies are lying post-coital on the kitchen floor, she is wearing nothing but one of his shirts.
  • Sore Loser: The Devil throws an epic hissy fit when the jury finds in Stone's favour and nullifies her contract.
  • Story Within a Story: The film opens with an extract from Jabez Stone's novel, alternating between his typing and the scene being acted out. (It's possible the title of the novel may be ''Shortcut to Happiness'', but this is never conclusively established.)
  • Title Drop: Johnnie's father in the Story Within a Story tells his son that "there is no shortcut to happiness".
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Mike visits Stone to tell him that he is dying of cancer. However, before he gets a chance to do so, he throws up all over Stone's coffee table and carpet. Stone still doesn't figure out what's going on until after Mike angrily storms out. It is this event that triggers Stone's Heel Realization
  • White Gangbangers: Stone is mugged by a multiracial gang that includes at least one very prominent white member.