A very large part of audience acceptance of any story whether it be verbal, written or on film, is the ability to create a connection between the story teller and those listening. Typically this is done by means of finding some common ground, a universally accepted theme to form the foundation of the story, there are many such topics to choose from but traditionally one of the most prevalent is to examine interpersonal relationships. Cultures may change, empires may rise and fall but throughout it all people have to relate to each other on a personal basis. The usual format for a story of this nature is the romantic comedy but that construct typically restricts its gaze to a single couple. The recent dramatic comedy to take on the subject of relationships on a broader scope is the oddly titled film ‘Happythankyoumoreplease’ the first thing that needs to be said is don’t let yourself be put off by the ungainly name of this movie. It is actually quite well done and shows a lot of promise for the filmmaker. This is the kind of film that could only come about within the context of independent films. A major studio would be very reluctant to back a film that can best be described as ‘easy going’. This is a character driven movie that is a nicely constructed blend of humor and drama punctuated with poignant moments that keep the film grounded in its humanity. There are times when you want a movie to be a thrill ride down a stretch of white water rapids. This movie is more like drifting down a stream looking out at the diversity seen on shore. This is an unorthodox coming of age film that looks closely at the difference between being legally an adult and growing up on an emotional level. The twenty-somethings depicted here are chronologically adults but they are still struggling with what it truly means to be at that stage of life. The movie pieces together different vantage points to provide a more balanced look at maturity than is typically seen. This is a movie that doesn’t attempt to hide its imperfections. They are a reflection of the imperfect people that populate the stories and somehow make the movie come across in a genuine light.
The universe of this story orbits around Sam Wexler (Josh Radnor), a man trying his best to make it as a writer. There is a case to be made that the character here is drawn from Randor who also wrote and directed this film. What was reassuring here is the film did not project the usual vanity project vibe that is present in many movies where the filmmaker’s name is present on virtually every function listed in the credited. Radnor has a clear and genuine voice throughout the narrative of this film and it clear the man has the requisite talent as actor, director and screenwriter. Many will immediately recognize him as the lead character from television’s hit sit-com, ‘How I Met Your Mother’, but this project strongly indicates there are much greater goals this man will achieve. The message here may be targeted at those in their late twenties to early thirties but the entertainment value extends far beyond that slice of life. Sam experienced one of those pivotal moments in life when he happen to cross paths with Rasheen (Michael Aligeri), a young boy in foster care who was just abandoned on the New York City subway. Sam had been barely gaining control of his own life and the responsibility of a child had been the farthest thing on his mind but he couldn’t desert the boy. When Sam got up that morning he was completely focused on the meeting he was going to that would pave the way for the novel he had been working on becoming a pushed reality. Rasheen adamant about not going to the police and Sam reluctantly brings him along on his day. As I write this summary of the opening events it occurs to me just how unlikely this scenario sounds. A large part of what made this film work so well for me is exactly this degree of improbability. As John Lennon once wrote ‘Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans’ and this is exactly what Sam is experiencing. Life is full of little improbably situations and Randor presents it honestly not trying to force the issue in any fashion. This open approach to the quirkiness of life is a refreshing change from the derivative plot devices usually employed in similar flicks.
This one thread could readily have been expanded into a compelling story supporting itself but Radnor flavors this film with the introduction of an unusual assortment of friends. Even here he demonstrates a flair by refraining from the use of the tropes of secondary characters listed in central casting under the general heading of ‘quirky friends and acquaintances’ he populates Sam’s world with the kind of odd characters many of us collect throughout our lives. An example is his best friend Annie (Malin Akerman), an insecure young woman with a perchance for wearing head wrappings to hide the baldness resulting from Alopecia. You might say she is looking for love in all the wrong places. Then there are Sam’s cousin Mary Catherine (Zoe Kazan) and her boyfriend Charlie (Pablo Schreiber) who defines their crisis as the prospect of having to leave the relative stability of New York City. Sam is not exactly above using the lost child to establish an introduction to the last member of the core cast a pretty waitress named Mississippi (Kate Mara), an aspirating singer.
Ultimately the greatest strength of this film has been cited as weakness. In particular the script does seem to ramble a bit. Actually this adds to the acceptance of the narrative as true to the disorganized way life really unfolds. Again it all comes down to the honesty the film presents but in its construction and execution.