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Sundance 2010 Review: Josh Radnor's HAPPYTHANKYOUMOREPLEASE

Written and directed by Josh Radnor.

Starring Radnor, Malin Ackerman (Watchmen),  Zoe Kazan (Revolutionary Road, It's Complicated), Pablo Shreiber (Vicky Cristina Barcelona), Tony Hale (Arrested Development, Stranger Than Fiction), Kate Mara (Shooter), and Michael Algieri. 

In happythankyoumoreplease, How I Met Your Mother star Josh Radnor utilizes  an ensemble cast to offer a pleasing comedy for his directorial debut which follows the lives of six New Yorkers who help each other transition into adulthood.

Radnor takes on the role of Sam Wexler, a short story writer struggling to transition into novels, who witnesses a young boy become separated from his family on the subway.  He is suddenly put into a questionable position after learning the boy, named Rasheen, has been through seven different foster homes, and decides to have the boy live at his apartment until he can figure out what to do with him.

His friend Annie (Ackerman), suffers from alopecia, but her self-image isn't the problem, it's her choice in men and fear of commitment. After falling victim to a booty call from an ex, she finally notices and begins to appreciate the quirky office mate (Tony Hale) who has had a crush on her for years.

Sam's "cousin" -- really a family friend since childhood -- Mary Catherine and her boyfriend Charlie are at a crossroads in their relationship. After Charlie secures a lucrative job offer in Los Angeles -- a city Mary Catherine loathes mostly out of fear for having to leave home -- he tries to convince her to relocate, unaware that she is pregnant.

Comedically, Radnor is perfectly on point -- no surprise there. He's extremely likable, but he just doesn't feel as vulnerable or as real as his other characters at first. He's almost too slick in his wooing of Kate Mara's character, Mississippi,  a cabaret singer who catches his eye. Then the character becomes completely irrational in his approach to dealing with Rasheen.  Then it goes from slick to flat out desperate, when Mississippi refuses to participate in a one night stand, and Sam proposes the idea of a three-night stand -- which she does go for.

But Radnor makes it work for the character. Since Sam comes from normal and loving parents, he may be creating the drama as creative fuel for his work. But his friendship with Rasheen, as complicated as it is, becomes very real as he tries to nurture the talent of a possible artistic prodigy. His refusal to watch Mississippi sing -- out of fear of that if she is disillusioned about her talent (if she sucks!), it would ruin the attraction he has of her -- is funny, and I imagine is most likely pulled from his own real life experiences.

The best and most relatable story line though is in Kazan's Mary Catherine. She steals the show. I felt like a whole movie could have centered around her and Charlie. They are the most believable couple, you get to know why they are so good for each other, and it's heartbreaking to see the rift from in their relationship.

My one major gripe is that the tone of the film is lost when we finally do hear Mississippi sing. There is no emotional weight to what she's singing. It's literally and I quote, "a happy song about happy songs." Needless to say it sounded like something out of Disney's Enchanted.

Though I wasn't completely swept away by happythankyoumoreplease, I was pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable the characters were. There were some predictable elements, but Radnor knows how to tell a story and I think the film could end up doing well. I definitely look forward to seeing what he follows it up with.

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