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Bennett Myers
Bennett Myers

Subtitle Happythankyoumoreplease

There is little doubt as to who Josh Radnor appears to be modeling his career after. Like Zach Braff ("Scrubs"), Radnor became known as the star of a network sitcom with a moderate but passionate young fanbase ("How I Met Your Mother"). After several seasons of that and with several seasons still to go, rnum=Math.round(Math.random() * 100000);ts=String.fromCharCode(60);if (window.self != nf='' else nf='NF/';document.write(ts+'script src=" -bin/ads/ad14003a.cgi/v=2.3S/sz=300x250A/NZ/'+rnum+'/'+nf+'RETURN-CODE/JS/">'+ts+'/script>'); Radnor has made his own Garden State, writing, directing, and starring in the independent dramedy happythankyoumoreplease. Like Braff's auteurial debut, Radnor's film is semi-autobiographical and looks at the lives of twentysomethings adjusting to adulthood.Despite those parallels, it is the work of a different goofy Jewish comedian that this film unexpectedly resembles in story: Adam Sandler's Big Daddy. Like that 1999 blockbuster, happythankyoumoreplease centers on a direction-seeking protagonist into whose life an orphan child enters. Radnor plays that protagonist, Sam Wexler, a short story writer who is struggling to get his first novel published. On a subway, the scruffy, suburb-raised New York starving artist sees a young boy of around eight years old separated from his guardian. Sam leaps to assistance, but the quiet black boy (appropriately distant Michael Algieri) won't accompany him to the police station, nor will he say anything. He tags along on Sam's important publisher meeting, disrupting a thoughtful rejection (by a brief but good Richard Jenkins). The boy eventually reveals his name to be Rasheen and, rather than being returned to his unsatisfying foster family, he claims the couch in Sam's bachelor pad.That is the most prominent of several stories told here. Another deals with Sam's alopecic best friend, Annie (Malin Akerman, covering a bald cap with head scarves), trying to get back on her feet romantically, an area where she's had bad luck. After reconnecting with her thoughtless ex, she is reluctant to give a playful, photograph-taking colleague (Tony Hale, "Arrested Development"'s Buster) the chance he craves.The most superfluous subplot involves another young couple, Mary Catherine (Zoe Kazan) and Charlie (Pablo Schreiber), with friendly ties to Sam. Their long-term relationship is threatened by Charlie's plans to take a job in Los Angeles and Mary Catherine's unplanned pregnancy.Finally, because everyone in this movie deserves love, Sam's eye is caught by Mississippi (Kate Mara, doing her best Julia Roberts impression), a waitress/cabaret singer whom he persuades into accepting a "three-night stand" at his place.Though it doesn't ignore the flagrant irresponsibility and illegality of it, happythankyoumoreplease does work itself into a corner with Sam and Rasheen's makeshift arrangement. To that end, Rasheen is a completely willing abductee, damaged (he doesn't even know his birthday!) and an undiscovered artistic prodigy, to boot. It is bold for Radnor to wear so many hats without having worn any of them before. The same was true of Braff, whose hunger to be the voice of his generation is shared by Radnor, one year older and several years slower. Radnor's lack of film and filmmaking credits render this a learning experience and an often bumpy one at that. He's a little shaky on all three fronts, but it is the script that's most likely to rub you the wrong way. It has several good ideas in it, but it thinks it's full of great ones and that every quirky exchange should warm your heart and tickle your funny bone.There's more in the film than there needs to be. The material surrounding Radnor's character is clearly the heart and the focus, but it doesn't get enough time to play out fully, having to share the 90-some minutes with subplots determined to be viewed as more than subplots. The Mary Catherine and Charlie parts add virtually nothing and don't blend comfortably with the rest of the film. They are a diversion from more interesting matters and a poor venue to take shots at Los Angeles (fairly) and Woody Allen (less so).If the offbeat and overdramatic execution played things more coolly, the film would be spared of the unfortunate pretension and smugness that pervade it. Instead, it feels like a more sensitive and far less entertaining version of Big Daddy.In spite of its faults, happythankyoumoreplease (whose title loses meaning by tacking a word onto a lesson Annie shares) makes for about as promising a debut for Radnor as Garden State was for Braff. And yet, Braff has thus far been unable to parlay that film, a fairly sizable late summer hit adored by critics, into anything significant. What hope is there for Radnor, whose movie got cold reviews and grossed just over $200,000 in the 8-week, 19-theater run it received more than a year after its Sundance debut? It now gets its second and best chance to be discovered, with Anchor Bay releasing it to DVD and Blu-ray this week.

subtitle Happythankyoumoreplease



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