HappyThankYouMorePlease is the directorial debut of How I Met Your Mother's Josh Radnor, who wrote and stars in the indie romance. He plays Sam, a writer living in New York City in his late 20s. En route to a meeting, he happens upon a young boy named Rasheen, who's been left alone on the subway. Not sure what to do, Sam becomes Rasheen's reluctant guardian for the next few days. As ill-equipped Sam deals with his new charge and finds a possible love interest (Kate Mara), we meet his friends: unlucky-in-love Annie (Malin Akerman) and couple Mary Catherine and Charlie (Zoe Kazan and Pablo Schreiber).
Radnor's first feature is an impressive effort; the individual stories are only moderately compelling, but the slice of life he portrays makes for a disarming and completely enjoyable experience. To find out why else I liked about HappyThankYouMorePlease, just
The entire cast is charming, and each character is likable (even when Sam has a tendency to dip into stereotypical jerky male tendencies). The way he treats Mississippi (Mara), vacillating between puppy dog infatuation and freaked-out dismissal, is maddening, but only because it's how many men his age would behave. For her part, Mississippi's behavior is also realistic; she's charmed by Sam at first but wounded when he disappoints her.
Akerman is believable as the single Annie, who is affected by Alopecia, but even more afflicted by her poor choices in men. It's nice to see Akerman de-glammed and expressing real vulnerability. I appreciate it even more that Annie suffers from emotional pitfalls, but she's still a strong woman with multiple dimensions.
But perhaps the movie's great standout is Kazan. As Mary Catherine, she's hit a wall in her current relationship with her boyfriend, who's mulling a cross-country move for work. The struggle comes through in Kazan's eyes, even when she's cracking jokes to hide her true feelings. She's matched closely by Schreiber, who is caught between his love for Mary Catherine and his desire to move his life forward.
The real gems in Radnor's script lie in the documentation of mundane aspects of his character's lives. Their dialogue about dating and relationships feels authentic, and sometimes frighteningly familiar. Some lines are so relatable that you can't help but laugh. That's also Radnor's other strong suit; the script is often funny, and it's the humor that saves a lot of the contrived situations. Some of his plot points, like Rasheen's entrance into Sam's life, feel forced, while others feel overly cutesy. Still, the lens of optimism that's present throughout the film keeps it all afloat.