Saturday, August 27, 2011

Pulling it together

Happythankyoumoreplease (2010) is an agreeable modest debut whose existence is surely owed solely to writer-director-star Josh Radnor's leading role in a television sitcom. Ordinarily a young filmmaker would have gotten such a rudimentary and ramshackle film out of his system in film school or in an ultra lowbudget shot-on-video festival debut on the way to truly gathering his or her powers and making a truly vigorous and authentic gesture as an artist. As is right and proper for the early work of a fledgling filmmaker, its mostly made of bits and pieces from other people's work with the exception the storyline around a woman afflicted with alopecia, richly limned by Malin Akerman and her love interest played by the always welcome Tony Hale.

Of the other main story threads, one is both implausible and vaguely distasteful and the other is quite dull, but there is one sequence to celebrate, borrowed though it is from Annie Hall (Woody Allen is clearly Radnor's model). It is the climactic scene in which all the threads are brought together and resolved, edited to footage of the female lead singing a song of redemption and joy in a nightclub. In Annie Hall it was Diane Keaton singing "Seems Like Old Times." In Happythankyoumoreplease it is the sweet Kate Mara singing a little-known and completely delightful song by John Kander and Fred Ebb called "Sing Happy." (It is from their debut musical, Flora The Red Menace in which art student Liza Minnelli found herself inadvertently mixed up with Depression-era Communists.) To my mind, this little film will have completely justified its existence if it does nothing more than bring "Sing Happy" into the consciousness of more singers, music directors and film goers.

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