Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Video store: Happythankyoumoreplease

Josh Radnor's Happythankyoumoreplease is the kind of low-budget film I thought they didn't make anymore, one where loosely connected friends bounce around New York and by the end a couple of lives are changed. Radnor's theme seems to be that it's too easy for us to overlook small moments of genuine happiness, and while the movie doesn't go anywhere terribly new the ride isn't too bad thanks to a couple of sharp performances. Sam (Radnor) is a writer on the verge of a real career in fiction whose chance encounter with a boy named Rasheen (Michael Algieri) causes him to reflect on the state of his life. What seems like an indie version of the Bagger Vance situation winds up being a sly parody of Hollywood cliche. Rasheen doesn't have a great sense of humor or magical powers; he's just there, and Sam's having to deal with him causes him to get out of his own head. While Sam is only a slightly less self-absorbed version of Radnor's How I Met Your Mother Character, Radnor gives him enough grit so that the movie's other precious touches (Sam falls for a woman named Mississippi, played by Kate Mara.) don't grate as much as they might otherwise. Malin Akerman must have been overjoyed to get the role of Annie, a woman with alopecia slowly opening up to love thanks to the attentions of a persistent colleague (Tony Hale). If you only know Akerman from Watchmen, be aware that she's quite capable of creating a fleshed-out, fully realized character. As Mary Catherine, a woman not sure how to deal with a pending move to Los Angeles, Zoe Kazan is the best thing in Happythankyoumoreplease. Mary Catherine's concerns are so immediate and Kazan's emotions to urgent that the rest of the movie might as well be something she's watching.

I'd like to see Josh Radnor open up his world in his next film, but he has a way with actors (Kazan and Akerman are as good as I've ever seen them.) and an ear for the concerns of the 30ish. Happythankyoumoreplease is a promising debut, and so much more than a TV star's vanity project.

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