REVIEW: Happythankyoumoreplease [2011]

Score: 8/10 | ★ ★ ★

Rating: R | Runtime: 100 minutes | Release Date: March 4th, 2011 (USA)
Studio: Anchor Bay Films
Director(s): Josh Radnor
Writer(s): Josh Radnor

“Who says Santa’s pants have to be red?!”

It only took about halfway through Happythankyoumoreplease before I began to think about the one thing I probably should have latched onto from the start. The comparisons between this and 2004’s Garden State are unmistakable. And it’s not just the obvious—or what should be obvious if my brain had been working—that each starred and was written and directed by the star of a hit television sitcom, it’s also the sense of heart behind every single moment, the off-kilter eccentricity of certain characters that never becomes out-of-place, and the kick-ass Indie soundtrack backdrop. “How I Met Your Mother’s” Josh Radnor definitely took a page out of “Scrubs’” Zach Braff’s book and has made it his own. The mouthful of a title has meaning in the context of the film, sure, but it also speaks to the generation that created it with post modern speak. Both these young men decided to speak from the heart, decided to take that middle class childhood without true pain and suffering and craft a touchingly comic story able to resonate with who they are—a late-twenty-something at a crossroads, looking for any spark to prove meaning in the world.

Our first time meeting Sam (Radnor) definitely leaves something to be desired. We watch the aftermath of a night’s conquest slither out of bed, pull on some clothes, and rush out the door before the ringing phone clicks over to an in-progress voicemail. This is the norm for him, his realization of the time ever so slightly frazzling as he acknowledges lateness for an important meeting with the last publisher willing to give a face-to-face while completely forgetting a woman had been in his bed at all. A flippant remark later about honestly not generally calling a girl after an evening of sex shows the kind of guy he is and the constant wide-eyed stare of confusion muffling the fear of failure his immaturity, yet a fight or flight moment of clarity on the subway minutes later surprises and astounds by showing he may be worth saving after all. But then seeing young Rasheen (Michael Algieri) get left on the subway, his foster family oblivious to the error as though they had hoped it would one day happen, only to be scooped up by Sam in a panic-stricken sense of compassion might just have been one more way to sabotage happiness.

So now we have a manchild—a twelve-year old twenty-nine year old if I’ve ever seen one—walking the streets of New York City with a small black boy he can barely cajole a name from. His friends Annie (Malin Akerman) and Mary (Zoe Kazan) are somewhat freaked out, a tad unsurprised, and increasing worried at the development knowing full well that he is the last person on earth who should be entrusted a child, let alone be for all intents and purposes the kidnapper of one. And Sam doesn’t do too much to assuage their concerns, taking him to a bar in order to woo a beautiful waitress named Mississippi (Kate Mara), dragging him to a party with the words, “It’s a party dude, have ten cookies,” when the desserts could easily include pot, and keeping him around more out of the fascination of literary subject matter than as a human being in need of saving. Sam is not the ideal role model, but through his missteps and grave errors in judgment, he somehow finds he can give Rasheen the one thing he was afraid to give any of his revolving door of women. And not only can he give love, but he finds he’s willing to receive too.

As a result, Happythankyoumoreplease is a tale of growing up—even though the central character evolving is barely under thirty. But he isn’t alone as we also find ourselves traversing the day-to-day of Annie and Mary as they too reach vertigo-inducing heights with the decision to jump off or continue the mistake-ridden cycle of a stubborn unwillingness to change. But while some of the film’s best moments come from the threads of these women, it is them who unfortunately hinder the work from being as resounding a success as Garden State was by making it a triptych. Annie’s searching for love in a world where women with Alopecia simple can’t be seen as beautiful did work for me, not only because of a gorgeous dinner scene with Tony Hale where he and Akerman take their roles to wonderfully emotional heights, but because she is constantly working her way into Sam’s story too. The two are best friends and they confide in each other constantly. Mary, on-the-other-hand, becomes an isolated branch book-ended by conversations with Sam, yet for the most part completely autonomous. And while I loved Kazan’s conflicted performance as adulthood rears its head, along with boyfriend Charlie (“The Wire’s” Pablo Schreiber), I kept feeling ripped from the real story each time they’re on screen.

The Mary/Charlie duo does captivate, though, and the Annie story of handicapped, ‘no one will ever love me’, sleepwalking behind a deceiving smile resonates, but it’s Sam’s subtle metamorphosis that draws you in. Radnor may belie some ego writing how his Sam is “the voice of our generation” and a self-proclaimed, (with a smirk), great writer, but I’ll admit I may have to agree with these (un)intentional autobiographical statements. He has found the voice to be those things, to send the message that things get better, and, no matter how corny it may be, that we all deserve gratitude and should be willing to take it. The perfected hundred mile stare on Radnor’s face often speaks volumes to the unknown he and many people watching experience and while we won’t all find responsibility in an artfully talented foster kid needing help or love from a girl as damaged as us, we can understand the underlying themes and aspire to be better, to refuse to compromise our own happiness. It’s a message worthy of an audience and the film a successful vessel express such. The memorable one-liners throughout don’t hurt either, giving the tale equal parts heart and truth with the sarcastic bent we all know too well.

[1] Michael Algieri as Rasheen and Josh Radnor as Sam in Anchor Bay Films’ Happythankyoumoreplease.
[2] Malin Akerman star as Annie in Anchor Bay Films’ Happythankyoumoreplease.
[3] Pablo Schreiber as Charlie and Zoe Kazan as Mary Catherine in Anchor Bay Films’ Happythankyoumoreplease.

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