18 Jan

Title: Happythankyoumoreplease
Year: 2011
Director: Josh Radnor
Writer: Josh Radnor
Starring: Malin Akerman, Tony Hale, Zoe Kazan, Kate Mara, Josh Radnor, Pablo Schreiber, Richard Jenkins
MPAA Rating: R, language
Runtime: 100 min
IMDb Rating: 6.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 39%
Metacritic: 45


I’m a fan of How I Met Your Mother, I think that it’s still one of the ten best comedies on television right (which is saying something considering it’s on its seventh season), and I think the best thing about it is, obviously, the amazing ensemble that show has to play their five main characters, the group of friends who hang at McLaren’s. Out of the three guys of the bunch, Josh Radnor, who plays Ted, is kind of like the David Schwimmer of the bunch; while Neil Patrick Harris has been rocking awards shows and being the lead on The Smurfs (which was a crappy film, but still a blockbuster), and while Jason Segel has been doing Forgetting Sarah Marshall and spearheading the awesome Muppets reboot (I saw that film earlier today and gave it an A), Mr. Radnor has been, well, nowhere really, other than lending his voice to a couple of Family Guy episodes (as his How I Met Your Mother character) he’s been sticking solely to his day job.

Well, now Mr. Radnor’s making up for lost time with Happythankyoumoreplease in which he pulls triple-duty as director-writer-star of the film, and, best of all, this is actually a pretty competent debut feature from him. Much like How I Met Your Mother, this is also a comedy about a group of New Yorkers who are, in one way or the other, trying to figure out who they are, who they want to be, and who they want to be with. Though, if I’m to be honest, I think Mr. Radnor here tried a little bit too hard to make this a quirky kind of film to be enjoyed by the hipster crowd, I mean it’s a good movie and all, but I got that impression, he kind of wanted to be the new Wes Anderson or something, and at that this film didn’t really succeed that greatly.

Mr. Radnor is in charge of playing Sam Wexler, an aspiring novelist who, on his way to meet a publisher, meets this young boy, named Rasheen, who has been separated from his family on the subway. Rasheen is shy and refuses Sam’s attempts to try and leave him with social services so they can figure things out, and then Sam learns that’s because he’s been in that system before, going through a half-dozen foster homes and thus acts on impulse and agrees to let Rasheen stay with him for a couple of days. And it’s good stuff, it’s like one of those 1990’s Woody Allen movies in which the legendary director knew how to marry the drama and the comedy and get those two genres to work alongside each and feed of each other to the greatest of effects. I’m not saying Josh Radnor is Woody Allen, obviously, but you get the gist, the guy knows how to handle himself nicely in that area.

Because he really shows an assured hand with his cast, one that’s full of talented young actors, and actually delivers a screenplay that doesn’t force a plot but that instead lets the characters drive the movie and find the plot themselves instead of throwing them straight into one. But anyways, as we join Rasheed into finding out about Sam’s life we’re introduced to his group of friends; we have Malin Akerman’s Annie who gives Sam tips about his love life but can’t seem to find Mr. Right herself, there’s also Mary Catherine, played by Zoe Kazan, and Charlie, played by Pablo Schreiber, who have to learn how to define their relationship as the prospect of Charlie having to move to Los Angeles arises, and, of course, there’s Kate Mara’s Mississippi, an aspiring singer who may get Sam to finally commit to something in his life. These are all good actors and they’re all good here, but Ms. Mara takes the cake; she’s splendid.

This is a very good film; I think Mr. Radnor has crafted a really nice look at how uncertain a young person can be, how vulnerable the quest to finding yourself can make you and how you just have to go out and seek the answers to these questions instead of waiting for them to come to you. You get the sense that he’s been very careful with his script, playing it kind of safe, but that’s good because it’s still a good script and because he, as a director, gives his actors all the time and space they need to really get into their characters, which I really appreciated. He shows a knack with actors, probably because he is one himself, but I thought the stuff he did with dialogue was great, not going to the sitcom-y stuff he’s no doubt used to, but delivering stuff that, when it’s not being quirky-cute, rings very true for these characters. And then the cast does the rest, like when we see Ms. Kazan and Mr. Schreiber adding layers to their characters themselves, taking a simple, though good storyline, and making it more complex because their director gave them the room they needed.

Comparisons to How I Met Your Mother may be inevitable considering the similarities with the plot, but I think they’re for naught, this is a film that stands on its own, and Mr. Radnor is a very capable director with a lot of heart. What didn’t make Happythankyoumoreplease great to me is the fact that by playing it too safe at parts, not risking too much, it made the film like some kind of drive sometimes, and as such it felt a bit vague, thought at least it’s all set to a soundtrack by some nice indie bands (you can also think of it like a minor Garden State, especially coming from the star of a successful sitcom). But that’s just me being kind of picky, this is still a film that proves Mr. Radnor has got the goods, he knows how to make some good observations about the life of his characters and, more importantly, he really shows love for his characters. His next writing-directing-starring gig will be Liberal Arts, which will also star Elizabeth Olsen, so yeah, I’m already plenty excited about that one.

Grade: B+


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