"I was a well-fed, middle-class kid who came from good parents; I've got no material." Those words, spoken by Sam the writer, are just one example of how Josh Radnor blurs the lines between writer and character in his debut film, happythankyoumoreplease.
In it, we follow the lives of a few late-20s/early-30s bachelors and bachelorettes in New York City, a place Radnor portrays endearingly. Sam (played by Radnor) is a cynical writer desperately trying to sell one of his short stories. His best friend Anne (Malin Akerman) can't seem to stop dating the wrong guys. His cousin Mary (Zoe Kazan) is pressured by her boyfriend to go to Los Angeles (a city she loathes) and leave New York (the city she calls home). Along the way we meet all sorts of characters, including Rasheen, a "young black child" who, after shuffling through several foster families, has no home.
Sam takes Rasheen in for awhile, at least until he can figure out what to do with him. Anne accuses him of using the boy for material, but it's more complicated than that. Although we've seen the little-kid-sidekick device before, it's so lightheartedly entertaining here that we really don't care. Michael Algieri's debut as Rasheen will steal your heart.
I have yet to mention Mississippi, a bartender/cabaret singer, played by the lovely Kate Mara, who serves as Sam's romantic conflict. They hit it off quickly, possibly too quickly, and we wonder if they've met at the wrong time. Regardless, their interactions are the most cringe-worthy of the film (see: "let's clean each other up" and "you write short stories, I'm ready for the novel").
On the other hand, great music from Jaymay kept me in tune with the film's title. It serves as a narrative soundtrack for happythankyoumoreplease and gives it an indie feel (the film won the Audience Award for Best Drama at Sundance).
Although at times cheesy and clichéd, Radnor's debut tells an epigrammatic story about characters we genuinely care about. Sam's not delivering a profound revelation when he says "every five years I realize what an asshole I was five years ago." Yet the inherent modesty in that statement says a lot about Radnor's work.