Sundance Review: happythankyoumoreplease
It's been a long 10 days here at Sundance, and as I start packing my things once again I find myself homesick for New York, a city that's apparently even colder than Park City right now but features decent bagels and my friends. So it's almost cruel that yesterday I finally caught happythankyoumoreplease, the crowdpleaser that already captivated many of my festival friends, even though most of them seemed a little ashamed of it.
Go ahead and count me in too. happythankyoumoreplease goes down easy and charming without a bit of weight or meaning, and I'm betting moviegoers outside of the Sundance bubble will be just as happy to be coddled and delighted for an hour and a half. Written and directed by, and starring, How I Met Your Mother star Josh Radnor, the movie directly mimics much of that show's charm, with the added benefit of a few f-bombs and characters with a bit-- and just a bit-- more nuance.
The list of preposterous things that happen in this movie is endless, starting with the palatial apartment each character lives in and including lead character Sam's (Radnor) accidental kidnapping of a young black boy (Michael Algieri). There's also a girl with alopecia played by Malin Akerman, another girl who somehow makes a living stocking colored pencils at an art store (Zoe Kazan) and an aspiring singer and barmaid (Kate Mara) who agrees to a cutesy experiment spending three days living with Sam.
Characters played by Tony Hale and Pablo Schreiber surround all of these leads as romantic foils, and the stories all circle around each other with no relationship other than that they're all about the same vaguely neurotic crowd of upwardly mobile New Yorkers. With Radnor at the center it's easy to tell how each of the characters speak in moderated versions of his own voice, and despite a vague and self-referential reference to Woody Allen, it doesn't get off the hook of feeling derivative of, uh, every New York set dramedy of the last 30 years.
But dammit, I was charmed. Radnor has clearly learned a lot about comic timing and story pacing from his years on How I Met Your Mother, and moves the stories swiftly along on one-liners and romantic beats without appearing to rush. Even the most ridiculous script conventions often lead way to genuine insights, and even Malin Akerman-- Malin Akerman who almost single-handedly torpedoed Watchmen-- is likable as a girl with no eyebrows and a few silly philosophies about life. The movie wraps up in exactly the warm, optimistic way you expect, with the overload of indie music montages that no first-time director seems capable of avoiding. Everything feels familiar, but just tweaked enough to be entirely pleasurable. happythankyoumoreplease has yet to find distribution, but it will, and will be presented as an indie alternative to more traditional rom-coms. There's nothing non-traditional about it, but it works all the same. Go ahead, succumb.
For more of our Sundance 2010 coverage, click here.
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