Sundance's first crowd pleaser arrives with the charming 'happythankyoumoreplease'
Josh Radnor delivers an uneven dramedy with big laughs and great performances
The first true crowd pleaser debuted early during the first day of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and its the charming "happythankyoumoreplease." And the standing ovation and frequent laughter during the dramedy pretty much gave it away.
Written, directed and starring Josh Radnor of "How I Met Your Mother" fame, "happythankyou" centers on three interconnecting storylines set in New York City amongst the still struggling almost 30-years-old set. Radnor plays Sam, a writer whose had a lot of success with short stories, but can't seem to knock his first novel out of the park. Malin Akerman plays his best friend (and "sponsor" -- although this is never explained) who suffers from alopecia (meaning she has no hair follicles on her body) and continues to date the wrong guys even when the perfect man is right in front of her (although it's not the Sam you might think it is). Kate Mara is Mississippi the bartender/singer that Sam is infatuated with. The final plotline finds Zoe Kazan and Pablo Schreiber (Liev's brother) play a couple in love, but trying to come to terms with how in love they are and whether to make the "dreaded" jump to Los Angeles (arguably the weakest part of the film). The story kicks off, however, with Sam finding a young foster kid (a fantastic Michael Algieri) who gets separated from his guardian on the subway. Is he being a good guy or irresponsible by not turning him into the police? Happily, the film doesn't provide any easy answers for any of its protagonists.
Then again, "happythankyou" is not without its faults. Radnor has great ideas and observations about relationships and the mindset of his generation, but he too often jumps to sitcom safe story elements to keep the laughs going. In fact, it's the great work by director of photography Seamus Tierney ("Adam") that saves the film from feeling too much like studio comedy at times. However, it's this mix that should make it a quick pick up by a Fox Searchlight, Focus Features or other studio-light company looking to make a mark with the art house set in the tradition of a "Garden State" or "500 Days of Summer" (although its not quite as good as those flicks).
Also worth noting are the great performances by Mara (who it turns out has quite the singing voice) and Akerman who shows more talent here than in any of her previous films (including her uninspired turn in "Watchmen").
As for Radnor, yes, there is something ego driven about making yourself the lead in a movie that is both your directorial and screenwriting debut, but his big screen charisma is evident and at the least this picture should get him into the discussion for larger studio roles (if and when he wants them).
Yes, the good films are starting to pop at the festival and "happythankyou" is one that should find its way to a theater near you very soon.
As Sundance heats up, look for breaking news and commentary daily on HitFix.com/Sundance. For the latest, follow @HitFixGregory on Twitter.
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