Review: Happythankyoumoreplease (Sundance)
PLOT: Sam (Josh Radnor) is a struggling New York-based writer, who lives his life free of commitment and responsibility. All of this changes when, one day on the subway, he sees a young boy get separated from his family. The kid, who's a foster child that's been bounced around to dozens of homes over his short life, takes a liking to Sam- who, perhaps unwisely, decides to take the kid in. Meanwhile, his group of friends, including the alopecia-stricken Annie (Malin Akerman), struggle with issues of their own.
REVIEW: For me, HAPPYTHANKYOUMOREPLEASE was one of the big question marks of this year's edition of The Sundance Film Festival. It's the directorial debut of Josh Radnor, star of the popular sitcom, HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER. The buzz on the film was great, with some saying this is is the new GARDEN STATE. Alas, this is no GARDEN STATE...
Really, HAPPYTHANKYOUMOREPLEASE is just another, hipster, urban twenty-somethings 'dramedy', and nothing you haven't seen a million times before. It's not a bad film, as Radnor did a good job putting together the film, with it having some nice DV cinematography, and an excellent song-score by someone called Jaymay. However, the story has just been done to death, with this essentially playing as a serious version of BIG DADDY, crossed with REALITY BITES, but not as good as either.
Doing triple duty as director/actor/screenwriter, Radnor maybe bit off a bit more than he could chew his first time out. While technically it's a well constructed film, the pacing is all off, with too many unnecessary subplots that take us away from the main story. While I liked Akerman's burgeoning relationship with shy lawyer Tony Hate (BABY BUSTER!!!), it eats up was too much of the ninety minute running time. The same can be said of storyline involving Sam's cousin, Mary Catherine (Zoe Kazan), who's boyfriend, Charlie (Pablo Schreiber) might be on the verge of leaving her, for a life in Los Angeles. All of these characters probably could have used a film of their own, and by throwing all of these storylines in, the film begins to feel really unfocused by about the halfway mark.
However, despite my problems with the pacing and construction, I can't say I actually disliked HAPPYTHANKYOUMOREPLEASE. I think it's an earnestly made, genuine film, and Josh Radnor obviously has some talent both behind, and in front of the camera. The whole plot-line involving Sam and the young boy, while somewhat derivative, still works, as does his tentative romance with waitress/ cabaret singer Mississippi (Kate Mara), who he, perhaps unwisely, invites to his apartment for a so-called "three-night stand."
While it's not the second coming of GARDEN STATE as some have claimed, HAPPYTHANKYOUMOREPLEASE is still a pleasant enough way to spend ninety minutes. While I wasn't all that taken with it, judging by the reception it received at the premiere, I may be in the minority, and if it's marketed well, this could be a breakout hit, as it taps into the same market as another recent (and superior) indie hit 500 DAYS OF SUMMER. As for Radnor, I sincerely hope he makes another film, as, while flawed, this shows that he's got some serious potential.