According to the rules of grown-up cinema, Happythankyoumoreplease should be irritating as hell. There’s that title. There’s its oversaturation in sing-songy indie pop. And there’s the fact that this story about disaffected 20-somethings in New York is part Reality Bites, part Garden State, and part begging for the same eye-rolls its characters offer when it’s suggested there are things such as happiness and lasting love and success. The fact that it stars and was written and directed by first-timer Josh Radnor (How I Met Your Mother) doesn’t help its case—how many experienced auteurs could nail such a triptych, nevermind a newbie from TV?
Well, Radnor’s worked some magic. Happythankyoumoreplease is warm and tender; these shaggy-haired searchers are a bit more adult than their man/woman-child filmic counterparts. The most mature among them actually doesn’t have any hair at all: Annie (Malin Akerman) suffers from an auto-immune disorder that leaves her wrapping her bald head in elaborate scarves and employing false eyelashes for big nights. She claims that optimism is “fucking exhausting,” yet she’s almost always relentlessly cheery, particularly given her lot in life.
Her best friend Sam (Radnor) is the main focus here, a failing novelist who botches a big meeting with a publisher by oversleeping (“Why do I fear success?” he babbles to Annie as he scrambles to get ready) and then performing a good deed that turns into a not-so-good one: While on the train, he sees a young boy (Michael Algieri) get separated from his mother. Sam means to bring the child to a police station but is running late, so he ends up taking the kid to the meeting. And then…well, the boy won’t leave his side. It turns out he’s a foster child who doesn’t want to return to his latest family. So Sam keeps him, meaning to properly remedy the situation but becoming too wrapped up in his own issues—writing, meeting girls—to do anything about it.
Two other threads involve Annie’s quest for love, both with a bad-news old boyfriend and a guy (Tony Hale) who adores her but whom she has zero attraction to; and the somewhat turbulent relationship between Mary Catherine (Zoe Kazan) and Charlie (Pablo Schreiber). Charlie wants to move to L.A., but Mary Catherine loves New York—and she may have a more serious reason for not leaving the nest.
Annie, Mary Catherine, and Charlie are all likable enough, doing and saying things that don’t make you want to smack them. (In a film as potentially precious as this, that’s no small thing.) Sam is often a childish dick in comparison, staring open-mouthed and blankly when everyone in the world tries to explain why he shouldn’t keep the kid. Still, as Sam feeds the boy and encourages his considerable artistic talent, you know his heart’s in the right place—so, as with his friends, it’s difficult to stay too annoyed. In the end, Happythankyoumoreplease is about finding bliss that fits, and it’s pleasant to see that in the end, these characters find theirs without much attendant angst.