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Movie review: 'Happythankyoumoreplease'

Losers, breakups, casual sex: Twentysomethings kvetch about their lives.

March 04, 2011|By Sam Adams, Special to the Los Angeles Times
  • Josh Radnor and Kate Mara star in "Happythankyoumoreplease."
Josh Radnor and Kate Mara star in "Happythankyoumoreplease." (Matt Marks / Anchor Bay Films )

Aspiring novelist Sam (Josh Radnor) is down to his last rejection when he visits the office of a Manhattan publisher, played by Richard Jenkins. Perhaps the meeting would have gone more smoothly had Sam not stopped to help a young black child on the subway.

But chances are he was doomed no matter what. It's not the writing, the publisher explains, it's his protagonist. "I don't know if you want people to love this guy or hate this guy," he says. "He's kind of just kind of."

Like the other characters in "happythankyoumoreplease," which Radnor also wrote and directed, Sam is teetering on the edge of adulthood, feeling like he ought to move forward with his life but not really wanting to. He's (relatively) young, good-looking and nearly as charming as he thinks he is. What's the rush?

Poised at the symbolically weighty age of 29, Sam and his best friend, Annie (Malin Akerman), whose bubbly personality seems undented by her pervasive alopecia, have had ample opportunity to learn from their youthful mistakes, but they've thus far declined to. His knack for telling women what they want to hear dries up the morning after. She's still mooning over her loser ex-boyfriend, a fitfully employed bass player.

Sam's cohabiting friends Mary Catherine (Zoe Kazan) and Charlie (Pablo Schreiber) are nearer the mark, but he's just come back from Los Angeles with a promising job offer, and she's wedded to the idea of living in the nation's cultural epicenter, whether or not she ever makes it to the Met.

With his ego and id working at cross-purposes, Sam takes fumbling steps toward maturity, but his half-hearted measures are careless and destructive. When he finds out that Rasheen (Michael Algieri) has fled an unhappy foster home, Sam takes in the boy, nurturing his budding artistic talent but neglecting to inform the authorities.

And in the process of seducing a kohl-eyed barmaid named, and from, Mississippi (Kate Mara), he abruptly offers to have her move in for a three-day span, scrawling a contract on a handy piece of paper before getting down to business.

Sam's attempt to bypass the damaged woman's defenses is transparently disingenuous, and it succeeds only because she's more desperate than she is cautious. (Unsurprisingly, the promised set of apartment keys mysterious vanishes when it's time for him to hand them over.) His spontaneous proffer is played as a romantic contrivance, but it comes off as deceptive and cruel in ways the movie never fully reckons with.

Of course, Sam eventually sees the error of his lady-killing ways, but his charm wears thin long before it's meant to.

Treating their problems like they're the most important crises in the world is what people in their 20s do, but that doesn't mean we have to go along for the ride.

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