There is a difficult balance sometimes in a story between a happy ending and a sad ending. There is something fulfilling about everything turning out for the best, especially when things in real life are full of chaos. At the same time the happy ending can at times feel cliche or too neat if not done exactly right. It is important that the ending fit the overall mood of the story and not just pander. There are definitely times that it can feel like the ending of a story is designed to please the audience more than fulfill the story itself.
There is a reason that we are drawn to a happy ending, especially when it completes the story. It can tie up the story in a way that resolves the main conflict, but then it can sometimes feel a little bit pandering. Some times the happy ending that is being presented doesn’t seem to actually further the story and instead just seems to want to give the audience a happy ending instead of dealing with heavier issues.
The thing to remember is that a sad or not completely concluded ending can still be a good ending if it fits the story. Sometimes a story needs to have the consequences of the actions actually pan out and not just have everything miraculously get resolved in the last ten minutes. Sometimes the happy ending can feel unsatisfying when the consequences of our actions do not actually have any meaning. The happy ending can feel empty whereas a sad or conflicted ending could have felt more complete.
I think there is this idea in Hollywood that a happy ending is a better ending and that is just not the case. I think when a happy ending feels unsatisfying we can feel like Hollywood is trying to make something to please the audience, which is a little frustrating because it comes across as treating the audience as stupid. They don’t believe the audience can look deeper at the story and it ends up ruining a potentially deep and throughly provoking story. It can be so amazing when a movie actually thinks of the audience as smart – it can really allow the story to shine.