happythankyoumoreplease opens Friday in select theaters (see times below)
happythankyoumoreplease takes place in a superficially recognizable but lifeless version of Manhattan’s East Village. Its treatment of the city is full of distractingly dissonant moments, like a Union Square Park where you can play catch, summer days that would allow one to wear more than one layer, and the concept of a ladies’ man who wears cargo pants.
The first of such out-of-touch moments is the one in which protagonist Sam (played by writer-director Josh Radnor, star of TV’s How I Met Your Mother), who can afford to live alone in a spacious one-bedroom in a prime neighborhood, doesn’t spring for a cab when he’s late to an important meeting with a publisher. When someone might publish your first novel, it seems like you’d spare the 15 bucks to get to midtown. But then, if Sam doesn’t board the subway, he won’t encounter Rasheen (Michael Algieri), a cute black child who’s been separated from his foster family.
As Sam takes Rasheen in, Radnor doesn’t veer from what you’d expect: Sam gradually forms a bond with Rasheen and wants to keep him. The unusual thing about Radnor’s treatment of this story is that he buries this plot strand among far less weighty story lines. We watch as Sam courts a local bartender named Mississippi (Kate Mara): “Look cute,” Sam tells Rasheen in hopes of charming her. For all the energy brought to screen by the scenes between Radnor and Algieri, this may have been the only direction the young actor received. We also meet Sam’s childhood friend Mary-Catherine (Zoe Kazan), whose relationship with Charlie (Pablo Schreiber) is threatened by his itch to relocate to Los Angeles, allowing Radnor to treat his audience to some predictable New York-vs.-LA arguments.
Sam’s best friend, Annie (Malin Akerman), is also thrown in the mix. She struggles with her tendency to date immature men, and slowly warms up to an obnoxious co-worker, also named Sam (Tony Hale, Arrested Development). It’s at dinner with Sam No. 2 that Annie tells a story about a wise cab driver who teaches her to say “more please” every time she says “thank you,” supplying an obligatory anecdote that explains the film’s title.
Radnor doesn’t seem to be aware that his approach sets up a harsh juxtaposition between real problems like Rasheen’s and the sophomoric ones experienced by every other character. One gets the sense that Radnor thinks his characters, as they trade platitudes and pep talks with each other, are dealing with momentous issues. But these are people whose search for love and truth is stunted mostly by their middling intelligence. The film laughably name-checks Woody Allen, as if this ensemble had anything in common with the artists and intellectuals who populate Allen’s best New York films. Radnor is in over his head, unable to offer viewers a unique version of the city or write characters smart enough to fill his movie with anything more than lazy pontificating.