Josh Radnor, the TV star from "How I Met Your Mother," has a hang-loose affability in the annoyingly titled "Happythankyoumoreplease," which henceforth I will refer to as "HTYMP." Radnor also wrote and directed the film, which won an audience award at the 2010 Sundance film festival. Audience winners at that festival tend to be quirky-goofy exercises in navel-gazing. Lo and behold, "HTYMP" does not disappoint.
Radnor's Sam is a would-be novelist who lives a scroungy bachelor existence in New York. His avoidance of "commitment" – he's OK with one-night stands – is put to the test when he is smitten by a local bartender and aspiring cabaret singer nicknamed Mississippi (Kate Mara) who, as fate would have it, hails from Mississippi.
Hoping for something more than an overnighter with the equally smitten barmaid, Sam suggests she move in with him for three days. What he has forgotten to tell her is that he has unofficially adopted a mixed-race 8-year-old boy, Rasheen (Michael Algieri), whom earlier in the week he watched being abandoned on a subway train. Mississippi is understandably confused and upset, but Sam, who doesn't seem to realize he's leaving himself open to kidnapping charges, promises to set things right – eventually.
As if this weren't enough baggage for one movie, especially an indie movie, Radnor front-loads the proceedings with further complications. Sam's best friend, Annie (Malin Akerman), who suffers from an immune-deficiency disorder that leaves her bereft of body hair, is trying to extricate herself from an on-off relationship with a crum bum Lothario (Peter Scanavino) while, at the same time, fending off the advances of a supernice-guy lawyer (Tony Hale) in her office building. His name is Sam, so she dubs him Sam No. 2. He's ordinary-looking but ardent, which means that, between the two of them, we are primed for much beauty-is-on-the-inside jabber. And then there's Sam's friend Mary Catherine (Zoe Kazan) and her boyfriend, Charlie (Pablo Schreiber), who are in turmoil because he may have a good job prospect in Los Angeles, a city that Mary Catherine, never having spent time there, likens to Hades. She is also, unbeknownst to him, pregnant.
Did "HTYMP" start out as three separate movies? Sometimes filmmakers, particularly of the young and underfunded variety, cram too much plot into their films because they are afraid they might never get the chance to make another. For audiences, the upside to this quandary is that if one story line isn't that interesting, another one will come along soon enough to break up the tedium.
Unless, of course, all the stories are tedious. In the case of "HTYMP," I found the Mary Catherine-Charlie confab borderline blah (though Kazan is good). The Annie-Sam No. 2 narrative is beyond predictable, but Akerman, her head turbaned in colorful scarves for most of the movie, is at least lively, and Hale gives nerds a good name.
That leaves Sam-Mississippi-Rasheen. The point of this story line seems to be a showcase for Sam's innate goodness. I kept asking myself how this good guy could afford to support himself, let alone an 8-year-old boy. Is he any good as a novelist?
The answers to these and sundry other questions are left twisting in the wind. But Radnor has an agenda here: He wants to make a movie that is, as he has stated in interviews, "defiantly uncynical."
That's fine – cynicism in the movies is often as flip as bubble-headed optimism, and lots more prevalent. But the happy endings in "HTYMP," as sweet as they are to experience, seem more engineered than inevitable. Grade: B- (Rated R for language.)