Review: Happythankyoumoreplease - Sundance Film Festival

"A strangely constructed film."

Happythankyoumoreplease is one of the rare instances where everyone involved clearly had too much intelligence, where too many ideas were broached, where too much emotion was thrust at the audience. Yep, Htymp could have been twice the movie merely by using half the content. But how do you tell someone they have too much talent? It's a weird concept. Then again, it's a strangely constructed film.

New York City is the setting, six hipsters in their late twenties are the subject matter. Sam Wexler (played by Josh Radnor, who also wrote and directed the film) is the young and struggling writer, trying to find his voice and a little financial remuneration. Aside: If you're ever curious as to why so many movies are about writers it's because writers like to write about themselves a lot. So there you go. Sam has a friend, Annie, a single gal who can't make love work. She's played by Malin Akerman, who does fairly well given all the emotional baggage she's burdened with. There's the struggling singer, Mississippi (Kate Mara), who bartends while she struggles to get her singing career off the ground. Finally, there's a young couple, Charlie and Mary Catherine, who are deciding on some major life choices. Will the writer ever publish a novel? Will the girl ever find love? Will the singer make it? Can a modern couple make love last? That's the setup of Happythankyoumoreplease, and it's not bad on its surface. Oh, I should also mention the little kid. The writer finds a lost child on the subway and quasi-adopts him for a bit. Yes, it's as goofy as it sounds.

Now then, the opening half of Htymp works well enough, though in hindsight some of the magic tricks the script was playing weren't sustainable. There are around 15 acoustic guitar songs which play during crucial scenes, and these are tremendous songs, the sort you'd want to load up your MP3 player with, but they also blend together after the first half dozen or so. The film is also comprised almost entirely of vignettes. Short, emotional scenes with one to three characters, all played out for maximum emotional impact. But you can't do that 30 times in a row, just the same as you can't fall in love 30 times in a row (unless you're on The Bachelor). So it ends up feeling heavily indulgent and forced. Oh look! A scene where the characters learn who they are! Yippee! If real life were like this my guess is the murder rate would spike exponentially. Feelings are a crucial component of life (and of scripts) but they aren't the only component.

And so, while you'll undoubtedly enjoy the verbal chestnuts that are gifted to you by this film, it's mostly a missed opportunity. They had amazing songs. They had fantastic actors. Josh Radnor is clearly a writer who can, erm, write. But what they were missing was any sense of pacing or story arc. It as if a hose full of candy has been turned on full blast. Even if you really like candy ... everything after that first burst is far too sugary.

Grade: C-