Movie Review: On the cusp of inspiringMovie Review Thursday, March 24th, 2011
I assume, at some point, Josh Radnor struggled. Before he landed one of the leads in the hit sitcom How I Met Your Mother and became a multimillionaire, he must have faced disappointment, doubt and debt. Right? Right?
Well, if he used to experience daily rejection after daily auditions, scribble on his MacBook in twee cafes and not be friends with people like Neil Patrick Harris, he doesn’t seem to remember what it was like. Because very little about Radnor’s acting in happythankyoumoreplease, an uneven but ultimately satisfying movie about struggling creatives in New York that he wrote, directed and stars in, seems authentic.
While the other actors in the film play better, deeper, more real characters with surprising skill and empathy, Radnor’s heretofore failed novelist Sam is just a sitcom type, a cookie-cutter writer from central casting.
While there is a sitcom feel to the plot of happythankyoumoreplease, Radnor seems to want it to be more Woody Allen than Friends. (One character even opines on Woody Allen’s oeuvre in a nod to Radnor’s obvious influence.) The farcical elements are there, but so are some emotionally deep problems.
For example, when Sam is on his way to meet an editor to try to sell his novel, he sees a child separated from his foster family on the subway and takes him under his wing. Inexplicably and illegally, Sam lets the kid, Rasheen (Michael Algieri), stay with him for several days instead of calling the police. And he lies about who the kid is to his new girlfriend, Mississippi.
His bemused and non-confrontational friends include: Annie (Malin Ackerman), a beautiful but hairless (Alopecia!) woman who always chooses the wrong man; Mary Catherine (Zoe Kazan), a sarcastic, struggling and suddenly pregnant artist; and Mary Catherine’s boyfriend, Charlie (Pablo Schreiber), whose most pronounced attributes are his mop-hair and his desire to move to Los Angeles.
The central plot of the film is Sam’s relationship with Rasheen. While Rasheen is cute (if blank) and precociously talented, why Sam, an obviously educated and seemingly sane man in his late 20s, would do something so clearly illegal is more than a little confusing.
But the movie is not all about Sam and Rasheen, and when Radnor is not writing and directing himself, his skill appears to be prodigious, particularly in his directing and writing for women.
Annie is funny and fragile; she makes bad choices and rages against herself, but her moral center never wavers. She’s a complex character and I was amazed by how well Ackerman played her. I’m close to forgiving her for ruining Watchmen.
Zoe Kazan, who plays Mary Catherine, is even better as the unhappy, conflicted, terrified and in-love artist. She was easily the most believable character, and I felt as if she could have been one of the women who lived across the hall from me when I rented an illegal loft in Brooklyn 10 years ago.
In a relatively small role as Sam No. 2 (that’s what they call him), the one good, if nerdy, guy pursuing Annie, Tony Hale makes the speech that is not just romantic, but transcendent. He tells Annie that despite what she believes, she deserves to be loved and she should demand it.
Radnor’s message seems to be that we need to go out and get the love we want, the love that we deserve. This mixture of selfishness and optimism is the only thing that keeps struggling artists from giving up and going to law school. It’s almost an inspiring message, even if it is, in this economy, a bit unrealistic.
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