happythankyoumoreplease Directed by: Josh Radnor Cast: Josh Radnor, Malin Akerman, Kate Mara, Zoe Kazan, Tony Hale Running Time: 1 hr 40 mins Rating: R Release Date: March 4, 2011
PLOT: A coming-of-age story that revolves around several New Yorkers who are facing adulthood. The film revolves around their ever-changing relationships as they try to come to terms with loving someone else and being loved.
WHO'S IT FOR? Fans of Radnor's sitcom How I Met Your Mother will be pleasantly surprised to see Radnor continue his neurotic behavior with a foul-mouthed twist to freshen things up and a surprising amount of sincerity. Those whose indie sensibilities are more of the Little Miss Sunshine variety will probably go for this quirky, almost too indie for its own good, feel-good movie.
EXPECTATIONS: I'm not a big How I Met Your Mother fan and unfortunately, Radnor had a lot to overcome as both star and director. Still, a fresh faced cast and a new take on what it means to be young and in love sounded like a pleasant escape, so I was willing to give it a chance.
Josh Radnor as Sam: Radnor is at home with this character. It makes sense considering he wrote and directed the movie, but at times, this proves to be a hindrance. You know when you're writing something and of course you know what you're talking about, but you don't always fill everyone else in because the progression seems so natural? That might be this character;s downfall. He's a good guy, or learns to be one over the course of the movie (I'm still not sure on that one) but we don't always get why he does what he does. Another character explains it best when he's talking about the character that Sam wrote in his novel, "he's kinda this, he's kinda that. He's just kinda." It makes for a funny and sometimes sincere character, but very unstable. Score: 6
Malin Akerman as Annie: I'm just gonna say what we're all thinking. Malin Akerman without hair? What's she gonna do now that she's bald and can't play the cute girl? Surprisingly enough, Akerman is one of the strongest points of the movie. She's tasked with some of the most genuine and sincere monologues of the movie. The only problem is her actual character, not Akerman's performance. We get this whole "I'm wounded cuz I feel ugly on the outside" thing within the first ten minutes and throughout the course of the movie, she learns to love herself and come to terms with her image, which is a lovely message. But I get that message from Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty and it only took them 30 seconds. Still, Akerman's charm and emotional warmth make even the most cliche moments enjoyable. Score: 7
Kate Mara as Mississippi: As Sam's love interest, Mississippi is already problematic. Let's face it, what romantic comedies don't tend to write off the love interests? But that's one of the things I enjoyed about happythankyoumoreplease and about the character of Mississippi as a whole. I never once questioned why Sam would fall for a girl like her. Forget the obvious outer beauty and the smile and lower lip biting that could melt a grown man's heart. She's not afraid to be funny and a bit fucked up. Still, even through all that, she remains a voice of reason for the movie that is riddled with a few too many moments of convenience. In what should be a forgettable part, Mara makes Mississippi a truly memorable character and one of the most enjoyable elements of the film. Score: 7
Zoe Kazan as Mary Catherine: Mary Catherine seems like the red-headed stepchild of the movie. The film's supposed to function as an intersecting dramedy, but her connection to the rest of the group is so thrown together that her storyline almost feels like a collection of vignettes strewn throughout the movie. Still, Kazan sells the emotional highs and lows surprisingly well. At her funniest, she's a breath of fresh air, but unfortunately, she's saddled with a lame subplot and not enough interaction with the other members of the group. It's a shame that the treatment of the character is so half-hearted, because Kazan really gives it her all and tries to make something of it, but she's given too much to overcome. Score: 5
TALKING: The dialogue of this movie is a mixed bag of tricks. On the one hand, Radnor's sense of humor is in fine form. There are plenty of moments that I couldn't help but smile at. Mainly Radnor's string of obscenities in front of young Rasheen, followed by a casual "don't swear." It's that kind of simple exchange that makes happythankyoumoreplease such an enjoyable comedy. However, the film also suffers from a number of instances of clearly male writing. Moments that are supposed to be tender or sincere come off as creepy and borderline date rape-y, such as the conversation leading up to Sam and Mississippi's first night together. Still, in the end, it's good-natured comedy wins out over the trite recycled rom-com dialogue. Score: 6
SIGHTS: The sights are nothing particularly special. I mean, it's New York. Not to offend any New Yorkers, but I didn't see much in this movie that I couldn't have caught watching old Sex and the City re-runs on TBS. Still, it has a bit of hipster charm to it that keeps the sights from getting too stale, but ultimately, it's the characters that are more memorable than any of the visuals of the film. Score: 5
SOUNDS: My only complaint about the music is that there wasn't more of it. The movie was crammed full of it as it starts out, but then, it slowly dies off. It's a shame too, because the acoustic folksy/blues-inspired/indie twang that accompanied so many of the earlier scenes really suited the style of comedy and the characters themselves. There's one or two moments where the music is featured a little too prominently with lyrics that aren't particularly fitting for the scene, but the charm of the sounds more than makes up for it. Score: 7
BEST SCENE: One of the final scenes with Mississippi singing in the bar is beautifully filmed and impressively put together. Still, some of the early scenes when Sam first meets Rasheen totally encapsulate this movie's ability to dance the fine line between drama and comedy.
ENDING: It wraps up nicely. Maybe a little too nicely for me, but those happy-go-lucky filmgoers will love this type of ending whereas the jaded part of me prevented me from really buying into it.
QUESTIONS: Why do people put up with Sam's bullshit? No, seriously, why does no one ever wanna call him out on it except towards the film's conclusion? What happened with Rasheen's family? How did it take, like, a week before anybody investigated Sam and Rasheen's living situation? Is Sam being formally charged with anything? Because as sweet as it was, he kinda broke a lotta laws.
REWATCHABILITY: Sure, why not? It'd be a while before I'd watch it again, but it's a nice little optimistic escape from real life.
OVERALL happythankyoumoreplease is an impressive addition to Josh Radnor's resume. It showcases a talent that I, personally, never would have expected given what passes for comedy on How I Met Your Mother. But he has proven with this film that the sitcom is just a gig. See, Josh Radnor is destined to be a filmmaker.
His characters aren't perfect, but what debut film is? Radnor, much like the character of Sam, is a work in progress. Still, if nothing else, happythankyoumoreplease introduces characters that are a pleasant distraction for the film's hour and 40 minute running time. For all that I enjoyed about the movie, its predictability will prevent it from achieving true greatness. Like I said, it's a fine effort, but by no means perfect. The most distracting aspect of the film never takes center stage though. The devil is very much in the details with happythankyoumoreplease. There are moments when its hipster/indie sensibility proves too much for me. Like, how pretentious is it to have the main character's manuscript be titled "The Other Great Thing About Vinyl"? It sounds so minor, but these things eventually add up. It's not enough to destroy the movie, but it definitely holds the movie back.
In the end, happythankyoumoreplease is a refreshing exercise for Radnor. It's nice to see him living up to his potential or at least exploring it. The actors and actresses do a fine job with the material they're given, displaying a range of emotions and talents that make each character a joy to watch. But it's the attitude of the film as a whole, the unbridled sense of passion and the hope that things can get better that make happythankyoumoreplease such a winning combination.
FINAL SCORE: 7/10