'happythankyoumoreplease' Pleasant, But No More Please

Directed by: Josh Radnor, Runtime: 100 minutes
Grade: C+

The sum of Josh Radnor's happythankyoumoreplease centers on a mantra of sorts: the more people extol and cultivate the good that slips into their lives, the more positivity they'll collect as a consequence of gratitude. Huddling together a cluster of twenty-something friends struggling with a generational shift, this New York-bound ensemble indie touches on the idea of cyclical contentment, and lack thereof, showing how torn individuals cope with love, vanity, caring for children and artistic refutation. Radnor's dramedy carries the best of intentions while showing courtesy to the anxiety that accompanies shifting between life's stages, where the prospects of moving on -- both literally and figuratively -- hinder those who struggle with scaling the wall of maturation. Alas, the way it opts to coast along the surface restrains its ably-hewn motivations into an non-disruptive, albeit pleasant half-charmer.

Sam -- whom Radnor himself plays -- is a borderline-neurotic writer caught in a static career transition, living in a better-than-expected apartment where he tills intellectual ground at his kitchen table. On the way to a follow-up meeting with a publisher, he catches a glimpse at a boy, Rasheen (Michael Algieri), unintentionally left on the train, dropping Sam into obligation territory that leads an unpredicted (and foolhardy) bond -- at least, the story would appreciate it if we'd assume that it's unpredicted. Sam's commitment issues receive an added challenge when he begins pursuing Mississippi (Kate Mara), a hopeful cabaret singer who pays her bills as a waitress in a local bar. Other threads lead to Sam's friends; his closest being Annie (Malin Akerman), an energetic cubicle dweller with severe alopecia (hair loss) and horrendous taste in men, and his hourly-waged artist cousin, Mary (Zoe Kazan), thrown into a tough decision when her boyfriend considers moving from their hometown to Los Angeles for work.

From its tone to an ostentatious title, happythankyoumoreplease heaves in the fumes of quaint indie style and exhales an expected lo-fi exploration of patchy relationships and walled-off love, achieving a candid meter about the dialogue that's hinged on modest performances from the eclectic cast. While Woody Allen comes to mind in the Manhattan setting and the intimate conversations, it's tough not to imagine Zach Braff's work with Garden State, only in part because How I Met Your Mother's Radnor penned, helmed, and performed in it; both feature a stilted creative confronting the wall that partitions him from an age-appropriate view of his position in life, while a charming yet equally-troubled girl assists in his "awakening". There are evident differences -- the off-and-on unease between Sam and Mississippi complicates more than enriches -- yet there's no mistaking the similarity in Radnor's aims, a collection of perspectives on conquering the cynicism-charged doldrums and lowering emotional defenses through taking chances.

While the characters sufficiently offer their forlorn points of view -- Sam's awkward fear of commitment, Annie's image issues, whether a couple can look at a new out-of-state job as a blessing or a call to break up -- Radnor lays the groundwork for a cathartic underbelly focused on those bemused by love. The script, however, inclines itself towards cleat-cut responses to emotional baggage, overlooking the complexity needed to lend weight to issues with detachment and avoidance in lieu of something easier to swallow. Sam's relationship with Rasheen takes center stage since, really, there's not a better way to bulldoze a man's issues with commitment than dropping an impressionable boy in his lap, while Annie dodges the advances from a daft yet attentive office mate (Toby Hale), the antithesis -- surprise, surprise -- of the sorts of men she normally falls for. Part of the point comes in those "under our nose" discoveries, sure, yet it all feels too on-the-nose to impart a degree of profoundness here, which becomes a tricky endeavor once some heavier, leap-of-faith dramatic spikes occur.

Smaller moments in happythankyoumoreplease discover glimmers of magnetism, though, even when cut down in contrast with what they could've embodied. Most of it hinges, again, on a capable cast juggling Radnor's alert dialogue; Malin Akerman delivers bracing effervescence as Annie, whether she's indulging a harmful ex-boyfriend over an evening drink or scrambling out of a potentially good thing with the second Sam (colloquially called Sam #2), while a conversation between a pair of splintering lovers about moving away from home mingles in context with the film's overlying coming-of-age focus. It makes it frustrating to see tangible performances, achieved in tandem with Josh Radnor's respectable freshman effort, slouch into a contrived extension of the story's sincere roots, even if it maintains a likable poise while Sam's growth is sketched out in broad strokes -- and when the comfortable characters discover their own grasps on the title's mantra, which, by the way, does receive a lucid (and touching) explanation.

For the full DVD review, head over to DVDTalk.com: [Click Here]


Anonymous said...

Interesting take. I liked the ensemble affect because none of the actors/experiences had to take too much of center stage. None of the characters struck me as people I'd feel incredibly close with, because they seemed a bit cliche and convenient for the plot.

I did like the music, although it was no Garden State; it did remind me of aspects of that film.

The little boy was really adorable, but man, I hope stuff like that doesn't happen in real life. What a creeper!!! :-P-- adrienne

Post a Comment

Thoughts? Love to hear 'em -- if they're kept clean and civil.