Sundance Audience Award-winner happythankyoumoreplease is exactly the movie that everyone was anxiously awaiting Zach Braff to put out after Garden State — you know, once “Large” and Sam decided they were sick of Jersey and decided to move to New York City. Except that it’s not that sitcom actor’s film. It’s the writing and directorial debut of Josh Radnor, who you probably know better as Ted Mosby from How I Met Your Mother.
The story focuses on six almost 30-something New Yorkers who are all struggling to find happiness. Sam (Radnor) is a short story writer who’s having no luck shopping around his first novel. Annie (Malin Akerman) is a beautiful girl with alopecia, an autoimmune disorder that has left her bald and insecure. Charlie (Pablo Schreiber) and Mary Catherine (Zoe Kazan) are a couple whose possible move to Los Angeles has put a major strain on their relationship. Mississippi (Kate Mara) is a cabaret singer who pays the bills with a bartending gig, which is how she meets Sam. She’s usually attracted to losers.
While this could have been a rather trite look at hipster life in NYC (see: Cloverfield before the monster) or another unsatisfying romcom about our generation (Away We Go) a few things save it from that fate. First, a plot twist involving a young foster kid (Michael Algieri) who Sam decides to take in after he gets separated from his family on the subway. If you’re able to suspend your disbelief over the fact that anyone would actually bring a strange kid home instead of turning him over to the cops (I was), then watching their unlikely friendship unfold is pretty magical.
Left: Josh Radnor and Michael Algieri at the Opening Night of the 15th Annual Gen Art Film Festival; Right: Kate Mara
And while the Radnor’s clever dialogue was a little heavyhanded at times (I’m specifically thinking of a scene where Mississippi tells him that she’s looking to start the novel part of her life, not another short story… or something to that effect), 99% of the time he’s really funny. Like, laugh out loud funny. What’s more, his characters are relatable. I felt like I was watching a film about people I actually knew, and not in that “mumblecore” way that’s so annoying.
Finally, there’s Tony Hale, who plays Annie’s love interest, Sam #2, a strangely assertive dork who just wants her to let him adore her. In the Q&A following last night’s screening, Radnor explained that the character of Annie was based on one of his close female friends, and that when he was developing her relationship with Sam #2, he just tried to imagine all of the nice things he’d like for a guy to say to her. Hale’s performance is pitch perfect, and unlike anything we’ve seen him do in the past; when Annie is gushing on the phone to Sam #1 about how it seems like the molecules on Sam #2’s face have rearranged into someone that’s beautiful, you totally get it.
Left: Malin Akerman; Right: Zoe Kazan
Watching happythankyoumoreplease will not change your life. But it will be a film that you’ll enjoy a lot (especially if you’re a New Yorker who loves to hate on LA ), and that you will tell your friends that they should pay to see. So that’s what I’m going to tell you. Look for it in theaters late summer/early fall.
The Gen Art Film Festival, which is celebrating its 15th Anniversary, is a week of premieres that spotlight the most talented emerging filmmakers in North America. Click here for 2010 film information and tickets.