Netflix Pick: Happythankyoumoreplease
Tuesday, January 31, 2012 Leave a comment
If there’s one thing I love about Netflix Instant Watch, it’s the abundance of independent films from promising first time writer/directors. This week’s pick is a notable indie dramedy that fits comfortably in that category, seeing as it is the debut feature from Josh Radnor. If that name sounds familiar, then you may be a fan of the beloved sitcom “How I Met Your Mother,” in which Radnor plays serially romantic protagonist, Ted Mosby [if you’re not a fan yet, “HIMYM” is also available on Netflix (hint, hint)]. How does he fare as a writer/director? Find out after the break!
In “Happythankyoumoreplease,” aspiring novelist Sam Wexler (Radnor) is riding the subway in New York City when he witnesses the accidental abandonment of a small child. He decides to help the boy find his way home, which turns out to be a far more difficult endeavor than he’d anticipated. On top of that, a bunch of other people he knows live their lives and learn things about relationships and shit. On paper, this movie is not terribly exciting. Do not let the lackluster synopsis fool you, however, for hidden beneath the nondescript plot is a funny and honest tale about love, friendship, and responsibility.
As it turns out, Josh Radnor is a fantastic writer. While the film doesn’t have much in the way of plot, its characters shine through fun dialog and believable behavior. I was worried that it would feel either underwritten or overwritten, as could easily be the case with a script written by an actor. It would have been easy for something like this to come off as an actor’s showcase, focusing more on theatricality than verisimilitude. Fortunately, Radnor clearly has a writer’s mind, and comes off as a great observer of human behavior, crafting a film that manages to find a sweet spot between those two extremes.
That isn’t to say that the actors aren’t noteworthy, either. Radnor himself turns in a fine performance as Sam, though he does feel a bit like a grittier, more realistic version of Ted Mosby much of the time. I’ve never been a huge fan of Malin Akerman, but she also does quite well in her role as Sam’s alopecia-stricken best friend. Tony Hale, on the other hand, I’ve been a fan of since “Arrested Development,” and he does a fantastic job as one of Akerman’s coworkers who happens to have a tremendous crush on her. He has an important monologue near the end of the film that is perhaps my favorite moment of the whole damn thing, and he delivers it very well.
What I love most about this movie is its positivity. So many indie dramedies about people living their lives in realistic ways are pessimistic and cynical. Everything is ironic and people get drunk and feelings get hurt. That happens a bit in this film, but it ultimately reaches a conclusion that is far more good-hearted than your average Sundance hit: people deserve to be loved and find happiness, and there’s something out there for all of us. Miraculously, it makes that point without it feeling like naive, pollyanna bullshit. Quite honestly, it’s the sort of message movies like this need more of, and it makes me all the more invested in Josh Radnor’s voice as a filmmaker. I can’t wait to see what he does next.
It’s gonna be legen- (wait for it)