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“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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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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