happythankyoumoreplease‘s title tells you the type of film that it’s going to be: Odd, squished together, generally pleasant and trying far too hard to be clever. It’s a very awkward film in its delivery and pacing, and while it’s an easy watch, it’s not terribly entertaining or inspiring, even though you can tell that it so desperately wants to be. Then again, people try too hard to be lever all the time in real life, and it’s just as bad then. So, perhaps the film is mimicking those types of people. Who knows?
The brainiac behind the film is Josh Radnor of How I Met Your Mother fame. He wrote and directed happythankyoumoreplease, and also decided to play the lead character, a struggling writer named Sam Wexler. One day, while on the train, he sees a little boy, Rasheen (Michael Algieri), get separated from whom he assumes is the child’s family. It turns out, Rasheedn is a foster child, and that he doesn’t like his current family. The kid won’t leave Sam alone, so he decides to do the logical thing and take the boy home with him.
Meanwhile, Annie (Malin Åkerman) is trying to find her place in the world, which is hard considering she’s a woman who can’t grow any hair on her body. There’s one man interested in her, Sam #2 (Tony Hale), although he doesn’t play much of a role in her life considering she doesn’t see him as a potential love interest. She and Sam are best friends, and they talk a lot about how life sucks or is hard or what have you. Sam is also trying to gain the affections of a waitress, Mississippi (Kate Mara), whom he invites into his home for a three day trial of living together — which he thinks is the most genius idea ever.
Oh, and there’s also the subplot involving Mary Catherine (Zoe Kazan), and her boyfriend, Charlie (Pablo Schreiber), who are trying to make the decision whether or not they should move from New York to Los Angeles for a potential job opportunity for Charlie. The film chronicles the development in each of these relationships, while also showing how the characters have to come to terms with the world, their cynicism, and pretty much everything else that young people have to deal with in order to grow up.
This is Radnor’s directorial debut, and while it’s a valiant effort, you can see that it’s not a veteran behind the camera. The pacing is what’s noticeably off, as many of the events happen too quickly, allowing for no real character development. Events then happen for no conceivable reason, as we can’t quite grasp why a certain character made that decision, as we don’t understand anyone.
This also makes it hard to care about these people. I don’t care that the writer is having his work rejected, as he never seems to be making an effort to improve it. After the rejection, he stops writing altogether — at least, we never see him write. Annie is having trouble finding love because … she’s not really looking for it, I guess. I couldn’t empathize with these people because it seemed like laziness was the source of all of their problems. If they wanted to fix their lives, they certainly weren’t going about it very well.
Even though everything happens so fast, there are long stretches where the plot seems to come to a halt, and then we just jump ahead and the characters have changed, somehow. They decided to progress and grow for absolutely no reason, and it’s extremely frustrating to see that. We want to see that growth and understand it, but when the characters seem to not at all be correlating to the events that are transpiring in front of them, you have to give up on them.
The writing is also a bit off-putting. While it can be cute and clever at times, it often felt like it was trying too hard to be endearing, and there were times when I had to shake my head because I couldn’t believe that those lines were being delivered. Much of the delivery is awkward, too, and I’m guessing it’s because Radnor was trying to be too controlling and precise when telling his actors what to do. There are moments when it truly succeeds, and you see the potential that is there, but this isn’t the film that showcases all that Radnor can do.
I will say that he makes for a likable leading actor, which did help for some of the time. I enjoyed seeing him and Kate Mara together, as I felt they had some decent chemistry, even if their lines were, at times, cringe worthy. Actually, apart from the writing and the delivery of that writing — which is, admittedly, a fairly big portion — the acting was all fine. And you have to admire the dedication to the role on the part of Malin Åkerman, as she actually shaved off her eyebrows to play the part of an alopecia patient.
happythankyoumoreplease is a pleasant film, but it’s not much more than that. It’s an easy watch, but it’s not worth the time you spend with it. It’s poorly paced, awkwardly written, and the characters don’t progress or develop like you feel they should. It all feels forced because it’s a movie, even if all the actors are likable enough to almost hold it together. It’s not a complete waste, and it has its share of moments, but I can’t recommend spending the 100 minutes it takes to watch it.