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DID YOU READ

“HappyThankYouMorePlease,” no thanks.

“HappyThankYouMorePlease,” no thanks. (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.

The Sundance Film Festival’s self-hype this year is full of words like “rebel,” “revolt,” and “rebirth,” but innocuous romantic comedies like “HappyThankYouMorePlease” are presumably not what they have in mind. The writing and directing debut of Josh Radnor, best known as “How I Met Your Mother”‘s Ted Mosby, centers on a sextet of young, comely New Yorkers trying to pull their lives together. Radnor centers the ensemble cast as an aspiring novelist who is having trouble breaking out of the short form, both in his work and in his personal life.

Either literally or figuratively, all of “HappyThankYou”‘s characters are hovering on the brink of 30, struggling to divest themselves of their emotional baggage and walk gracefully into the adult world. Pablo Schreiber and Zoe Kazan play a cohabiting couple whose relationship is unsettled by the need to make a handful of pressing decisions rather than just drift comfortably through life, while Malin Akerman is a philanthropic development associate with alopecia and an unerring talent for dating underdeveloped bad boys who pose no threat of long-term commitment.

Radnor unsettles his protagonists’ prolonged adolescence with a handful of plot devices that, even at Sundance, strain the boundaries of winsome contrivance. For starters, there’s the young African-American boy (Michael Algieri) whom Radnor picks up on the subway, a foster-care refugee whom he ends up taking in for several days. At the same time, he picks up a sharp-tongued but melancholy barmaid (Kate Mara) — you can tell she’s sad inside on account of the massive amounts of black eyeliner she wears — and coaxes her into signing a contract to move in with him for three days.

That he immediately starts backing out, and that it therefore amounts to no more than a ruse to get an emotionally fragile woman to sleep with him on the first date, is noted in passing, but the movie never quite takes stock of the fact that this makes Radnor’s character more than a bit of a prick — a fault which neatly encompasses “HappyThankYou”‘s shortcomings. Radnor has his finger on a real phenomenon: the reluctance with which white, middle-class Americans approach adulthood, and their ability to construct complicated rationales to justify their fear of growing up. Kazan’s character, for one, rebuffs her boyfriend’s proposal by pointing out that she comes from a long line of divorcées, as if her snakebit recoil from the prospect of future plans were a matter of principle.

01232010_Happythankyoumoreplease4.jpgBut the movie lacks any real sense of perspective, or performances that might expand the characters beyond their bland outlines. Akerman’s mannered fussing is particularly grating, although she’s also saddled with the bulk of the film’s late-game insights, which spill out in a handful of clumsily written monologues. Her climactic revelation, that her sweet, smitten co-worker Tony Hale may not, in fact, be too unattractive to date, is a baby step away from the shallowness that the movie treats as a profound insight. With a little reediting, “HappyThankYouMorePlease” could be transformed into a poisonous satire of a romantic comedy rather than a semi-conscious exemplar thereof. Now that would be rebellious.

“HappyThankYouMorePlease” does not yet have U.S. distribution.

[Photos: “HappyThankYouMorePlease,” Paper Street Films, 2010]

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.