It wouldn’t be unreasonable to call Bobcat Goldthwait’s latest, God Bless America, an absolute zenith of madness. This is the movie that will surely separate the director’s casual fans from the truly dedicated. Time to decide if you’ll sink with his ship or swim to safer waters. Me, well, I guess I’ll sink.
The Walking Dead was a lot of fun when I saw its first season last year. Great characters, acting, and zombie-killing action lent itself in creating a really tense and exhilarating show. The final episode sort of left the series on a cliffhanger, with the band of survivors forced to flee from the city. Will the show continue to entertain, or will it fall into the sophomore slump? It’s looking a bit more like the former from this season premiere.
The last sentence of a summary I read for Josh Radnor’s directorial debut read, “Radnor wrote and directed this comedy, which won the Best Drama Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival.” Immediately, before I had even put the film in my DVD player I had a smile on my face. To be a comedy, and a drama is as contrasting as two genres can get; but for some reason they just meld perfectly together. Happythankyoumoreplease left me happy, thankful, and wanting more… please.
Josh Radnor is most famous for his role as Ted Mosby, the twenty-something architect and lead character of the CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother. In some ways you could say this film is an extension of different threads from that show, but it is also much more than that. Sure, he may be a twenty-something guy living in Manhattan looking for love, but that is just a layer. Right under that first layer is a quirky, romantic, comedy, drama.
Happythankyoumoreplease takes three separate stories from three separate people, who all know each other, and captures a moment in their lives; the moment where they learn what life is all about. Without getting too philosophical or up in your face about morals, the film elates and warms your heart as you see these characters become the people you know they’re capable of being.
The story begins with Sam (Josh Radnor) rushing to meet with a publisher for his first full-length novel. While riding the subway he encounters Rasheen (Michael Algieri) a foster kid, running away from his foster family. Sam elects himself to take care of the boy until he figures out what to do with him. It seems like a fairly typical beginning to a self-discovery indie film, but I didn’t mind it because Radnor was able to do something different than the standard plot.
Sam also meets a girl named Mississippi (Kate Mara) who he asks to have a three-night stand with. It sounds odd (and it is), but there is something adorable about it as well. They play house and get to know each other, they have their ups and downs faster than a normal couple. Yes, it tends to fall under the typical plot of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back, but the characters and the story help you care enough about them so the plot is worth it. They have chemistry and it works.
Then there is Sam’s best friend Annie (Malin Akerman) who is cynical against men, always seeming to fall for the wrong ones. She doesn’t think she deserves commitment and struggles to be comfortable with herself. She meets a man named Sam #2 (since there are two Sam’s in the film) played by Tony Hale who wants to love her, despite her misgivings. Their tale is touching, even if it starts off in a semi-creepy stalkerish way where Sam #2 is always taking pictures of her. Of course, what relationship doesn’t have its awkward moments?
Sam’s semi-cousin/friend of the family, Mary Catherine (Zoe Kazan) deals with growing up, leaving home, and the surprises along the way. She tends to be a voice of reason and a voice of chaos. You don’t always know what is going on in her head and I loved every minute. She brought out most of the non-typical drama and ran away with it. It was so refreshing to see her in her head most of the film as the drama built up in her head until she exploded full force in the most powerful scene of the film.
Minus a few issues with the pacing during the first act, Happythankyoumoreplease blew by. There were a couple of times when characters would regurgitate dialogue heard in the previous scene, as if there were two different drafts of a scene left in the script, but I didn’t necessarily mind when I liked the conversations they were having.
While it was not the most revolutionary in the genre, it allowed me to sit back and live a moment with characters I enjoyed. There are moments when I laughed, moments when I was sad, moments when I felt what these characters were feeling. I attribute those moments to the clever writing of Josh Radnor who seems to understand how people speak, and not how screenwriters tend to think people speak.
I really loved the film. I don’t say that about most romantic dramedies, but for this one I can easily recommend people find a copy. Indie films where you may know what is coming but you actually care how they get there are a breath of fresh air, especially at the time of this writing when I can’t seem to care for most of the characters in recent films I’ve seen. I hope to see more from Radnor in the future, he has more talent than people seem to give him credit for. Happythankyoumoreplease is a fantastic film that will allow you to live with interesting people and how they learn to love. If you want to be happy, see it. There is a great message about life that just brings a smile to your face. So, go rent/buy this film. Go experience life. Go get yourself loved.
The Good: Likeable characters, great writing.
The Bad: Couple of moments seemed to circle back on themselves as if there were two different drafts of a scene.
The Ugly: More films don’t do the things that Happythankyoumoreplease does so very well.
Score: 8.75 out of 10
First time director Mike Cahill filmed Another Earth on a tight budget, as most indie films do, however never have I seen an indie film that has made me sit down, pause at certain moments, and take a long time to truly understand the message.
From the trailers we know that another Earth, Earth II as they call it in the film, has suddenly appeared, changing the lives of everyone on the planet. This story, written by lead actress Brit Marling and director Mike Cahill, does not do much with its sci-fi setting. Instead of focusing on the whys of the second planet, the film hones in on a specific tale of a young girl who makes a tragic mistake, and her ability to right those wrongs.
On the night the second planet appears in the sky, Rhoda Williams was driving under the influence and smashed her car into another, sending John Burroughs into a coma and killing his wife, son, and unborn daughter. Four years later, Rhoda is released from prison and wants to make amends. The second Earth is the catalyst for most of the events in Another Earth, but it never goes further into the sci-fi elements of its plot. While this isn’t necessarily a hindrance to the film, when small details are thrown out (like the second Earth was in synchronistic orbit around the sun which is why we never saw it) the drama breaks and I was left wondering why they would take heed of some details, but never mention others.
When another Earth appears in the sky with the same geography, same cities, even the same people; Earth I’s population begins to wonder: “Has the other me made the same mistakes I have?” Brilliantly, in almost every scene the second Earth is looming over Rhoda, it almost appears to be pressuring her to make a decision, to change her life for the better or worse. The second Earth is a constant, always present reminder of what Rhoda has done.
Brit Marling is a fantastic actress, to say the least. Brit is able to express a plethora of emotion in the most minute of glances. As Rhoda she needs to be able to play such a wide range, and does it without saying much at all. Many times I was drawn into her eyes, striving to understand what it was she was thinking, this could have been due to my curiosity, or to the fact that if there was ever a moment when she was within her mind, the camera would zoom directly towards her face. Either way, there is no denying Brit Marling has the acting chops to play such a silent, but important role.
William Mapother of Lost fame plays John Burroughs, the man who lost his family. Mapother’s acting is best when he is silent, or stone faced whilst speaking. There are times when he becomes angry and I never felt there was enough build up in his performance to match that anger. Not to say he isn’t a capable actor, because he very much is, but it seems like the camera focus was more on Brit Marling in these scenes and so the buildup couldn’t be shown.
There are great parts to Another Earth, but the film, as a whole, isn’t as tightly connected as I would have liked. Some scenes tend to drift or end on abrupt notes; there is also a plot thread involving a janitor that doesn’t make much sense, but pulls Rhoda’s story forward. During most scenes it will either be silent tension, or starved drama. I’m not against heavy drama, but for some reason, Another Earth didn’t grab me as much as I would have liked. Maybe it was because some of those scenes felt formulaic (like when she accidently washed a sweater she shouldn’t have). There are also flaws within its sci-fi and the only reason why they stand out is the scenes in which they explain some detail that isn’t needed, while completely passing over the more obvious ones. The Twilight Zone does the same thing, but doesn’t call much attention to it.
Another Earth is a film I have a hard time recommending to everyone. It took me a while to come to terms with what it was trying to achieve, and I think it was successful. It has flaws, but so do people. The film focuses more on the people rather than the sci-fi, almost as if it was an extended episode of The Twilight Zone. If you like indie films I’d say give it a chance because when Another Earth does things right, it shines.
The Good: Brit Marling is fantastic.
The Bad: Drama feels contrived in a few scenes.
The Ugly: A second Earth appears and gets dramatically closer in a short period of time. Despite this, there are no causes for alarm when the two planets will inevitably smash together, nor is there any effect on the climate with this planet closer than the moon.
Score: 7.5 out of 10