The Films of Josh Radnor
Happythankyoumoreplease (April 15/11)
Written and directed by Josh Radnor, Happythankyoumoreplease follows several New Yorkers - Radnor's Sam, Zoe Kazan's Mary Catherine, and Malin Akerman's Annie, among others - as they deal with a variety of problems and issues over the course of one very busy week. Happythankyoumoreplease, for the most part, comes off as an almost prototypical indie drama, as first-time filmmaker Radnor has infused the proceedings with many of the elements that one has come to expect from movies of this ilk - including a compellingly off-kilter soundtrack, an emphasis on twentysomething characters attempting to find their way, and a low-key, subdued visual style. The pervasively affable atmosphere is perpetuated by the uniformly strong selection of performances, with Radnor's surprisingly commanding turn matched by the film's eclectic roster of periphery figures. (And as good as folks like Zoe Kazan and Kate Mara are here, it's ultimately Tony Hale, cast as a goofy yet lovable romantic interest to Annie, who winds up making the biggest impact.) Radnor's multi-character approach does, however, result in a handful of lulls within the (admittedly plotless) narrative, with this feeling exacerbated by the viewer's ongoing difficulties at forming an emotional attachment to several of the film's inhabitants - although, to be fair, Radnor effectively wraps up the various storylines in as satisfying (and surprisingly moving) a manner as one could have hoped for. Happythankyoumoreplease is, in the end, a striking, promising debut that hopefully bodes well for Radnor's future endeavors, as the actor-turned-director consistently demonstrates a palpable gift for eliciting career-best work out of his talented actors (and, it's worth noting, himself).
Written and directed by Josh Radnor, Liberal Arts follows 35-year-old university admissions officer Jesse Fisher (Radnor) as he returns to his alma mater for a beloved professor's (Richard Jenkins' Peter Hoberg) retirement party and subsequently embarks on a relationship with Elizabeth Olsen's spunky (and much younger) Zibby. Filmmaker Radnor has, for the most part, infused Liberal Arts with a pervasively earnest feel that proves impossible to resist, with the appealing and affable atmosphere perpetuated by Radnor's remarkably engaging turn as the sympathetic protagonist. There's little doubt, then, that the movie grows more and more compelling as the narrative unfolds, with the flirtatious Jesse and Zibby relationship merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of the film's pleasures (ie Radnor offers up a handful of engaging subplots, including the Jenkins storyline and a brief yet entertaining bit involving one of Jesse's former teachers). (It's worth noting, however, that Radnor does stumble here and there, with the most apparent example of this, aside from Zac Efron's almost egregiously silly turn as a mystical stoner, an unfortunate instance of foreshadowing vis-à-vis the Jesse/Zibby coupling.) The movie's captivating vibe is heightened by the inclusion of several brilliantly conceived and executed sequences (eg Jesse and Zibby exchange a series of handwritten letters), while Radnor's remarkably memorable screenplay has been augmented with engrossing chunks of dialogue on subjects as varied as books, infidelity, and aging. The end result is an enthralling sophomore effort from an almost excessively promising filmmaker, and it should certainly be interesting to see what Radnor hatches in the years and decades to come.