Film Review: “happythankyoumoreplease”

by Jason LeRoy on March 11, 2011

Josh Radnor and Kate Mara in HAPPYTHANKYOUMOREPLEASE. © 2010 - Anchor Bay Films

starring: Josh Radnor, Kate Mara, Zoe Kazan, Pablo Schreiber, Malin Akerman, Tony Hale, Michael Algieri, Richard Jenkins

directed by: Josh Radnor

MPAA: Rated R for language.

Once you get past its title, happythankyoumoreplease is an affecting, sweet, self-aware comedy. It is written and directed by its star, Josh Radnor (How I Met Your Mother), who has crafted a film that is deeply felt without being overwrought.

Radnor stars as Sam Wexler, a nearly-30 short story writer who can’t seem to commit to a novel. This lack of long-term commitment also extends to his personal life. He knows how to be boyish and cute, too clever for his own good, and his bravado gets him into trouble when someone wants more than he can give. Such is the case with Mississippi (the lovely Kate Mara, who resembles a cross between Amy Adams and Isla Fisher), a waitress Sam beguiles with his drunken charm and drags into his life, only to panic and begin pushing back out.

Sam’s life changes when he sees a little boy named Rasheen (adorable newcomer Michael Algieri) get separated from his foster family on the subway. No one else seems to notice, and Sam is galvanized by a sense of responsibility for him. But it turns out that Rasheen doesn’t want to go home, and after several unsuccessful attempts at unloading him, Sam lets Rasheen come back to his New York apartment to stay while he figures out a solution. The film is maybe a bit sketchy on the realities of the foster care system and the CPS, but so is our protagonist.

Sam is by far the most layered and thought-out character in the film, but we also meet his friends. Mary Catherine (Zoe Kazan) and Charlie (Pablo Schreiber) are a long-term couple on the verge of breaking up because Charlie has a business opportunity that would require moving to Los Angeles. And Annie (Malin Akerman) has to fend off constant advances from an older nerd (Tony Hale) at her office while fighting the temptation to go back to her toxic ex-boyfriend (Peter Scanavino).

You get the gist. This is what Videogum would deem a “being white is hard” movie. It is a New York ensemble piece about a group of friends at similar “I’m almost 30 what am I doing with my life” crossroads. It is clearly the work of a first-time filmmaker, for better and worse, and while some of the story threads are more engaging than others — Akerman’s character definitely gets the short end of the plot stick, with nothing more than a dorky love interest and, randomly, alopecia — the performances keep the film engaging.

Radnor is deft at balancing his character’s appealing and appalling traits. Akerman, despite having little to do, gives one of her stronger performances. And Tony Hale finally succeeds in helping me see him as anyone other than Buster Bluth. But the film really belongs to Kazan and Schreiber, who take a fairly kitchen-sink storyline and invest it with piercing emotional honesty.

The comparisons to Garden State, another quarter-life-crisis film written and directed by a sitcom star, are inevitable. But for my money, this is the preferable film. Rather than wallowing in arty pretension and emo mood-making, Radnor has a slyly smart, sardonic, straightforward storytelling style. happythankyoumoreplease is slight but solid.

RIYL: city-set ensemble comedies about people in their late ’20s

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Gordon Elgart March 12, 2011 at 7:47 am

I disliked this movie so much, that as I walked past the Emarcadero screening of it (on my way to the Punch Line), I remarked to my girlfriend that I feel bad for anyone who has to sit through that. She agreed. I hate the script so much — it’s simply full of every dumb movie script cliche in the books.

I also disliked Garden State for many of the same dialog-based reasons, but the acting and look of that movie were so far superior to this one, I look back on it somewhat fondly. happythankyoumoreplease just hurts.

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Jason March 12, 2011 at 9:42 am

Nope. Garden State looks more expensive, but to what end? It was pretentious emo bullshit. Plus the Portman character was awful enough to officially mint the Manic Pixie Dream Girl cliche. Obviously Radnor uses devices that have been used before (because every device has been used before), but the conviction of the actors, especially himself, Kazan, and Schreiber, was enough to elevate it. I wouldn’t tell anyone to go out of their way to see it, but this movie (which, btw, won the Audience Award at Sundance, not that that guarantees a classic) is nowhere near as terrible as you’re suggesting. Especially compared to “Red Riding Hood.”

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Gordon Elgart March 13, 2011 at 10:14 am

Agree to disagree here, because your favorite actors in the movie were my least favorite.

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