Friday, January 6, 2012

Happythankyoumoreplease (2010)

For no particular reason other than Netflix instant viewing availability I decided to screen possibly the longest single word titled movie ever.  What I knew going into it was that this was the directorial and screenwriting debut of Josh Radnor (who plays the main character on the hit CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother).  He also stars in the film, the largest role of his young career (helps to know the director/writer) up to date.  I also knew that there'd be an extremely bald Malin Akerman (27 Dresses, Watchmen) from the advertisements and an interview I read somewhere while probably taking a dump about how difficult it was for her to go hairless.  Anyway, this movie is all story, cliche lines and decent music (not a whole lot done with the camera), so let's get into it.

From the poster art and title font, you knew this was going to be uber-Indie, and if not, you knew it was going to be from Radnor's character constantly open-mouthed Sam's general 30-ish, white guy, disheveledness vibe.  We are introduced to a full screen of Sam's feet as he steps out of bed waking up borderline late on the day of some sort of interview.  We'll soon learn he is a struggling writer in New York who's trying to push his novel - though the film never really goes into much detail about what it is he writes about.  But Sam's world is about to be rocked.  By an orphaned black kid.

Josh Radnor as Sam.

That's going to be Rasheen, played by first-time actor, Michael Algieri.  Through a series of missteps and misunderstandings it happens that Sam takes this eight year oldish child under his wing.  At first he's an inconvenience and Sam will do anything to get him back to the proper authorities, but it doesn't take much screen time till Sam utilizes him as an aide to pick-up a waitress-singer he's had his eye on named Mississippi (Kate Mara).  Eventually, Sam and Mississippi fall for each other and Sam and Rasheen confide that they are best friends with one another.

"But it was interesting without eyebrows, when you're in
the shower everything just drips into your eyes and [you]
realize what function your eyebrows actually have."  
            - Malin Akerman                                             

There are two parallel storylines to all of this.  The first involves Sam's best adult friend Annie, played by the aforementioned hairless (and for those who may have put a wager on it, it's alopecia she suffers from not cancer) Akerman. While she is there for Sam throughout the film by leaving ego-boosting revelations on his answering machine (DIGRESSION: Yes we are expected to believe such an antiquated device is still in use during the cellular age.  In reality viewers should note that if it wasn't for the answering machine's incredibly pragmatic cinematic functions, the very knowledge of its existence would cease to be.), Annie has her own issues of self-confidence while being white and 30ish in New York as well.  She's entangled with an asshole ex who hurts her yet another time.  Anyway Sam #2 walks into the rescue, played by an extremely toned down Tony Hale (most notably Buster from Arrested Development).  Usually a character actor, Hale charts unfamiliar territory as a seriously in love co-worker who won't have any if's, and's or but's about whether Annie is going to give him a real chance.

The other storyline is by far the flick's weakest and most unbearable to watch unfold.  Two life-pondering white 30ish New Yorkers (sensing a theme?) in a relationship whine and fight about whether the City holds anything more for them (Charlie, played by Pablo Schreiber, wants to ship out to Los Angeles after a recent invigorating trip out there while Mary Catherine, played by Zoe Kazan, can't bear the thought of ever leaving the homely boroughs).  As their scenes of intense one-on-one conversation play out, the audience is subjected to softly lit close-ups and whispering dialogue.  Whether it was the acting (which surely plays a role in this dysfunctional arc) or the presumably doomed from the start writing, Charlie and M.C.'s sequences feel artificial; like isolated role plays rather than characters with extrapolated lives.

And now for entertainment purposes, some lines from the script that will have you knees on the floor head over the toilet in no time:

"I don't know...I'm just tired."

"I'm so sick of's fucking exhausting."

"I've been feeling a little fragile these days, I need you to be nice."

"You're really smart." (genuinely)

"You should trust me...someone has to."

It doesn't matter to which characters these lines belong because if you've caught on to only one thing thus far, it's that all six actors embody the same persona.  At times watching this movie reminded me of sitting through one of those trendy star-studded ensemble romantic comedies that started with Love Actually and has evolved into New Year's Eve.  Only each duo the film jumps to is the same as the last, and each respective member of that duo is the same as the other.  Hellish to stomach, yes.  While we're on comparisons, as a sidenote I would pitch Happythankyoumoreplease as Big Daddy (plot) meets Garden State (tone).  Albeit the successful slapstick and Adam Sandler jokes are non-existent and Josh Radnor is a poor man's Zach Braff while his cronies do not stack up favorably either.
A scene from Big Daddy.

To end on a high note, there is one especially endearing scene while Sam and Rasheen are in the back of a police car.  There's a tremble in Sam's voice and a sense of panic in his actions which come across as refreshingly authentic.  He truly is concerned for Rasheen's future, and with his back against the wall (a nice change of pace from the other 99 minutes of his character coasting), Sam imparts him with advice and whatever wisdom he was able to garner during his days of whatever it is he does to pay the rent.  It's completely unironic, without self-sorrow and a truly heartfelt moment, and for that I'd like to offer Mr. Radnor a "thankyoumoreplease".  If only he had affirmatively answered within the film I could have walked away "happy".

See what I did there?

~ Review by Mike Dorfman

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