Friday, March 04, 2011

FILM REVIEW: Josh Radnor's "Happythankyoumoreplease"

In Josh Radnor's screenwriting and directorial debut, a creatively blocked writer (Radnor), an Alopecia-afflicted self-sabotager (Malin Akerman from Watchmen), and a couple (Zoe Kazan from It's Complicated and Pablo Schreiber from "The Wire") torn between two coasts learn to accept what they have in order to appreciate what they could have. It's as much a lesson in gratitude as it is a lesson in growing up.
Radnor's character reluctantly and illegally adopts a lost child. I think he was so frustrated with not progressing professionally that he decided he would take on this responsibility just so that it counted towards some sort of progress. The responsibilities he was supposed to be tending to—writing his novel, conducting a normal adult relationship, etc.—were too difficult to tackle. So why not dedicate time to something that had no real affect on his future? He was very much interested in skipping the hard part of life, which could explain why he took so long to research legal adoption and why he suggested to the lovely Kate Mara (127 Hours), a young Julia Roberts, that they play house for a weekend as if they'd already covered all the awkward stages of a new relationship. He, like many of today's 20-30 somethings, was experiencing a quarter-life crisis, frozen in his youthful immaturity by a fear of failure.
His best friend Annie (Akerman) had an unexpected fear. Given her appearance and ailment, you'd think she would be self-conscious and insecure about dating, but she wasn't in the least. However, she did have a lack of self-worth. She kept allowing herself to date men who didn't appreciate or respect her: hot musician types. And as a result, she prematurely wrote off the good guys, who didn't exactly look like the lead singers in a band. It wasn't until she was forced to really consider a guy and realize what she could have versus what she thought she wanted that she finally realized her worth. She could either be cheated on and cheated with, or she could be adored. Her character told a story that explained the title and she was the best example of its meaning. Instead of rejecting the good fortune that the universe gives you, you should be Happy, say Thank You, and ask for "More, Please!"
The third storyline illustrated that lesson with an interesting dilemma that befalls many young couples who meet before they've individually reached their full potential. Kazan's character Mary wanted to stay in New York and Schreiber's character Charlie wanted to move to Los Angeles, and whoever conceded would end up resenting the other person. Once the comical NYC and LA bashing subsided, they started to reevaluate their relationship and determine if it was worth submitting to the other's request. A life-altering event forces them to make a snap decision and it's in that moment that they realize that it doesn't matter where they live because they should be so lucky (and so grateful) to have found each other.
The actors did a stellar job—Radnor chose well. Pablo Schneider left the biggest impression with his heartbreaking declaration of love, but Malin impressed me for the first time since I've seen her on film—and I've seen a lot of her films. She curbed the vanity and dove deep into self-doubt and self-loathing. Her love interest Tony Hale ("Arrested Development"), who is accustomed to playing dorky, unattractive men, actually managed to seem appealing with his smitten act as he begged her to consider him seriously. Meanwhile, Mara debuted a surprisingly sweet singing voice, and the little boy Michael Algieri was as precocious as the best child actors without seeming unrealistically adult.

For his first film, Radnor did a great job of capturing this stalled generation and New York's culture, evenly balancing comedy and drama. I liked it even better than Garden State. So if you're having your own self-doubts and you see your life spinning as others jet past you, you'll find comfort in these equally lost characters.

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