I wouldn’t blame you one bit if reading the plot synopsis (or maybe just the title) for Happythankyoumoreplease caused you to go into indie movie preciousness overload. Let’s see — an unemployed aspiring novelist takes in a little black kid he finds on the subway, courts a plucky aspiring singer named Mississippi and has a best friend with alopecia who throws a party centered on the disease. I mean, if Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg were going to make Indie Movie, they wouldn’t have to push this premise much further.
And yet despite its overly constructed trappings, the writing and directorial debut of How I Met Your Mother‘s Josh Radnor has a much looser vibe. Even if its ultimate revelation of “everyone deserves to love and be loved” is far from insightful, Radnor has made a film that at least strives to reveal something true about its stable of 20-somethings.
Radnor himself stars as Sam Wexler, a writer on his way to a pitch meeting who sees a young boy (Michael Algieri) get separated from his family on the subway. He tries to reconnect them, but discovers that the boy, Rasheen, doesn’t want to go back to the latest in a series of foster families. So, Sam effectively kidnaps the kid, bringing him back to his apartment where he discovers the quiet boy is actually a brilliant artist.
During the same period, he meets Mississipi (Kate Mara), and he isn’t sure if his attraction will be relegated to a quick fling or something more substantial. Meanwhile, his alopecia-affected best friend Annie (Malin Akerman) finds herself making the same romantic mistakes over and over while ignoring the attention of her sweet co-worker, also named Sam (Tony Hale).
There’s also Sam’s cousin-but-not-really Mary Catherine (Zoe Kazan) and her boyfriend (Pablo Schreiber) debating whether to move to Los Angeles for his job or stay in New York.
Radnor’s script vacillates between some fair Woody Allen imitation (a character, confronted with her miserableness in the city insists, “Yeah, but that’s not New York’s fault!”) and some plainly terrible screenwriter-speak (how can you not cringe when in a romantic rejection, somebody says, “You’re a short story writer; I’m ready for the novel”?).
But Happythankyoumoreplease actually ends up feeling worthwhile, thanks to some strong performances. While the ostensible leads are all pretty uninspired — Radnor’s just doing a scruffier Ted Mosby, Mara feels like the generic pretty girl and Akerman is way out of her depth in the more emotional scenes — some of the supporting turns are fantastic.
Hale brings a tangible sensitivity to his gentle character, with an eleventh hour romantic pitch that’s actually quite moving. Kazan, just confirming to anyone who’s seen The Exploding Girl or any of her supporting work, is going to be a bona fide movie star. She commands every scene she’s in, and I kept wishing the film would tilt her direction permanently.
Radnor’s debut isn’t exactly auspicious, but it’s not totally devoid of promise either. Let’s hope his future work (he’s currently shooting follow-up Liberal Arts) kicks away the tired indie crutches and relies on a more personal vision.
The Blu-ray Disc
Happythankyoumoreplease is presented in 1080p high definition with an aspect ratio of 2.40:1. Much of the film has a colorful, sunny vibe, and its New York locations look solid in this transfer. There are a few scenes where lighter colors look a little blown out, but overall, it’s an expectedly clean and consistent transfer for a recent film.
Audio is presented in a 5.1 Dolby TrueHD track that nicely balances the dialogue and score by Jaymay.
Radnor and producer Jesse Hara contribute a commentary track. A featurette on the music explores Jaymay’s contributions, and a handful of deleted scenes round out the disc.
The Bottom Line
Not nearly as insufferable as it might appear on first glance.