The other night I brought my most recent Netflix acquisition to my friend's house along with some cupcakes. After Chinese food and beer happened, we watched the movie but, let's get real, we didn't really watch a whole lot of the movie because there were six people, Chinese food and cupcakes all in the same room. There was mostly talking going on. Which is fine. Movie was background noise and also it filled and gave excuse to those inevitable lulls that happen in conversations. I was actually really pumped to see this movie, though, so the next day I watched it in my apartment with nothing to distract me except for continuous text messaging which is infinitely more manageable.
For starters, what drew me, initially, to HappyThankYouMorePlease was the music. I'd heard that Jaymay had done all of the original music and that was enough to grab me. I'd been a fan of hers for the past few years. She has such a happy, honest, attainable sort of a sound that I like a lot. Storytelling and song singing all combined--I like that a bunch. I first heard and really, really liked Gray or Blue (because it resonated with me a lot at the time and even now I still sing along with the same enthusiasm that I ever did when it comes up on shuffle) but everything else just gets better and better. So, anyway, I figured that any filmmaker who loved Jaymay enough to let her do most of the music, must be on the same page with me when it comes to things like the human condition and lighting and character development and all sorts of things that go into making a movie a favorite for me. What I'm saying, I guess, is that, Josh Radnor, if you Googled yourself hoping to find a well written love letter of flattery, then I guess this might be the place to find yours.
I have been on the look out for realistic films lately. That is films about things that could actually happen--have actually happened to me or to people that I know. Films with characters that I can relate to and who resonate with me. I watched The Exploding Girl maybe a year an a half ago (The Exploding Girl and HappyThankYouMorePlease have a mutual cast member in the most excellent Zoe Kazan) and I found myself overwhelmed with the reality of it and I've been looking for that ever since. I'm going to be using that word a lot, "reality". Maybe I'll be able to think of another one by the end of this but maybe I won't and you'll just deal with it because we both know you're free to leave and I'll never even know.
I didn't mean it, please don't leave me!
I know how difficult it is to write characters and I have got infinite respect for Radnor for the simple fact that he did an insane job of executing it nearly flawlessly. Early in the film, Sam Wexler (an aspiring novelist--what NYC-based-film would be complete without one) is in a meeting with a potential publisher. The publisher is talking to him about his main character. He says something along the lines of (and forgive me for not getting it perfect, I've already returned the movie in the mail) "Your main character is kind of ambitious and kind of charming and kind of just kind of." As a person who has studied stories, I knew that this was a clue to pay attention to the characters in the film because they, or Sam's character at least, will not be wholly one type of person. And he wasn't. He's charming when he wants to be--when he wants to turn it on. He's indecisive and impulsive and totally unfamiliar and clearly just navigating the latter part of his twenties blindly like the rest of us. Like me. What a relief.
Meeting the characters in the film happens a lot in the same way that you meet people in real life. You get your initial impression out of the way and then make room for the real deal. For example, when we meet Annie, my first thought was, "And this will be the woman who is Sams foil. Shell be full of depth and wisdom because she has health issues--and because in the trailer, she was the one dishing out the advice about gratitude and what not." But it really doesn't take long to realize that, sure, she is full of wisdom and kind words and strength in some places but she's also broken and weak and totally in need of encouragement as well. Just like everyone else. It's just like in your every day life. It's just like with your friends. If you look at the people in your life, you'll notice that there isn't anyone who exists simply as the lovable fuck-up or the charming straight-shooter. Because there is depth to humanity but so often in films and books, that's what we are delivered. A typical romantic comedy doesn't have realistic characters--no one with whom you'd actually have a meaningful relationship in real life. But in HappyThankYouMorePlease everyone is just like me and just like my friends and you can see that there are struggles and there is value and they are all working hard at being good to and for one another. I like that. It makes me feel validated. Thank you. More, please.
Another thing I learned, through this film is that in New York, you can drink beer outside in the daytime and the night time. All of the times!
I like you, do you like me?