"happythankyoumoreplease" is a film that's easy to hate. Embodying the worst qualities of indie cinema, the picture is a shrill drill of cliché and emotional exasperation, viewed through the prism of New York City neuroses, where the young congregate to ruminate on the trials of life and love while standing in the shadow of the big 3-0. Still, there's a tenor of performance here that claws at sincerity, making the picture's tedious nature palatable for a few stretches, but hardly dispatches the brutal film fest-baiting atmosphere.
A novelist slowly accepting his failure, Sam (Josh Radnor) finds his life turned upside down when he spies a young boy named Rasheen (Michael Algieri) alone on the subway. Taking the child in, Sam finds an odd connection to the silent kid, a growing relationship that proves to be a spoiler in his wooing of Mississippi (Kate Mara), an aspiring singer who can't refuse Sam's persistence. Annie (Malin Akerman) is Sam's friend, a troubled soul having difficulty finding the right guy, despite constant flirtation from her kindly co-worker, a man she dubs "Sam 2" (Tony Hale). Mary Catherine (Zoe Kazan) is another of Sam's buddies, struggling to make sense of her relationship with longtime boyfriend Charlie (Pablo Schrieber), who wants to take off to Los Angeles, pulling her away from the New York City lifestyle she treasures.
The oddly titled "happythankyoumoreplease" (established in the movie as a sort of positive mantra) marks the writing/directing debut for actor Josh Radnor, who takes an easy route of dramatic complication to fill his entry into the world of filmmaking. The combined effect of verbal diarrhea and discontent in NYC isn't especially inspired screenwriting, with the picture requiring more of a direct shot of troublemaking and heartfelt anxiety to zap it awake. The formula of the film is suffocating, especially in Mary Catherine's story, where the jittery art store employee is faced with the soul-flattening, tear-jerking dilemma of...moving. It's obvious Radnor adores NYC, but it's not easy to emotionally invest in vapid characters with enviable problems.
The performances save "happythankyoumoreplease" in a major way, imbuing tangible concern into a trite feature. While handling the filmmaking duties, Radnor makes for an impressive lead, portraying a frantic man with impulses that often lock him into unwanted responsibility. Sam's interactions with Rasheen provide the film with a few comedic highlights, along with pleasant communication of consciousness the film could've embraced more. In a supporting turn, Akerman hits a few graceful notes of self-destruction while accepting the film's showiest role (Annie has alopecia, requiring a modified appearance for the actress), playing nicely with Hale, who also brings a disarming sincerity to the picture. And Mara gets a chance to play with a personality for a change, displaying some life after a filmography chock full of pouting and glaring.
Caring about the individuals in this film is difficult. They aren't evil people, and their self-absorption seems standard for the age group depicted, yet Randor assumes the personalities represent an elevated feeling of generational confusion, thus requiring some insight to appreciate. Perhaps the film will speak to a certain audience out there, but "happythankyoumoreplease" largely misses the mark, stewing with characters loaded with plenty of verbal spitfire and monologuing, but retaining little in the way of common sense.
For further online adventure, please visit brianorndorf.com