happy thankyou moreplease
By Carl Kozlowski
March 11, 2011
It’s easy to get cynical in a big city, to wonder if you’re ever going to find true love or even true friends, or whether you’re instead going to slip through the cracks and be just one more face in the crowd. Even worse, that cynicism can wear you down to the point that you just don’t care anymore about what happens to the strangers outside your personal universe.
But what if there was suddenly someone you just couldn’t avoid helping—say, for instance, a young boy who seems to have just gotten separated from his mom as she got off a New York City subway car? And what would happen if a string of bad circumstances meant the only option you thought you had was to take that kid in for a few days yourself?
Would that kid turn your life upside down? And even if he did, could it possibly be the best thing that ever happened to you?
Those are the underlying questions of the new independent dramedy happythankyoumoreplease, a film written, directed by and starring Josh Radnor, who heretofore was mainly known as part of the ensemble cast of the CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother.
Following the story of a 29-year-old freelance writer in New York City named Sam as he takes in a young boy named Rasheen (Michael Algieri) and the impact his sudden selflessness has on his life and those of his friends and lovers, happy is the kind of movie Woody Allen once mastered but just doesn’t make anymore—and Radnor does a terrific job with it.
The film follows a week in the life of Sam and his friends, who include longtime live-in couple Ira (Pablo Schreiber) and Mary Catherine (Zoe Kazan) facing the decision of whether to leave their lifelong home city and head to Los Angeles before an even bigger crisis hits. Meanwhile, Sam’s best friend Annie (Malin Akerman) wants to find true love but keeps getting hindered by the fact she has bad taste in men and a bald head due to alopecia.
Annie keeps getting hounded by a lawyer (Tony Hale) who is labeled Sam #2, and has to decide whether to give the dorky nice guy a shot or whether to keep hoping for a hunk to materialize as Mr. Right. And Sam himself lures a bartender/cabaret singer named Mississippi (Kate Mara) into his place for a “three-night stand” when she says she’s sworn off one-nighters.
Everyone’s problems and their attitudes about life are all transformed by the presence of Rasheen, and the unique relationship he has with Sam brings the film both a quirky humor and emotional resonance that most films with vastly bigger budgets lack. The title’s meaning is revealed in one of the film’s many downright perfect moments of dialogue, offering a philosophy of gratitude for every moment and aspect of life that is refreshing to see in these, well, cynical times.
Happythankyoumoreplease gets just about every detail exactly right, from a fresh score by New York folkies Jaymay that recalls the whimsical tunes of prior indie classic Juno and realistically gritty portraits of vibrant New York locations by cinematographer Seamus Tierney. But the best, nearly breathtaking moments of the film come in Radnor’s astonishing use of close-ups to draw viewers into powerfully intimate moments and make them feel like they are utterly in the characters’ shoes.
Radnor’s ace actors are perfectly cast, as each person looks not like a movie star but real people with professions, interests and quirks. When compared to glossy, big-budget, misfired attempts at multi-character romance like the putrid Valentine’s Day and the mostly stultifying He’s Just Not That Into You, happy is a masterpiece. It's also refreshingly low in its swear-word count and only implies sex rather than showing it gratuitously.
And in offering viewers a fresh way to look at their own lives and spark an interest in the needs of the friends and strangers around them, it’s a transforming experience as well.