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Sundance Audience Favorite Opens Gen Art FF

 

Some might say that the most prized award given at the Sundance Film Festival is the public prize. Winners of the Audience Award, as opposed to winners of the juried competitions, tend to indicate an innate audience appreciation that speaks volumes to film distributors and critics. In that light, tonight's Opening Film at the 15th Gen Art Film Festival is bound to be a crowd pleaser.

HappyThankYouMorePlease is the directorial debut of actor Josh Radnor, best known for his role on the television comedy hit "How I Met Your Mother". The film, which focuses on the relationship and career travails of a group of impossibly attractive twenty-somethings in New York, has an eclectic cast of indie darlings including Radnor himself, Pablo Schreiber, Zoe Kazan and Malin Akerman (with a terrific cameo by THE VISITOR himself, Richard Jenkins).

Shot on location in New York, the film has a terrific New Yawk feel, as it follows the intertwined relationships between a group of young, middle-class New Yorkers dealing with fragile relationships and risky career moves. The film is reminiscent of Woody Allen at his 1970s peak and is destined to be an impressive calling for Josh Radnor, who does a Woody here by starring, writing and directing his first movie.

Radnor plays Sam, a struggling writer who wonders whether the failure of his novel to find a publisher has anything to do with the lack of angst in his life. He is "a suburban kid with good parents," he complains, so what can he possibly write about? The film is built around three sets of couples, with the center being Sam and the decision he makes early in the film to bring home a young black boy who has been seperated from his family that he encounters on the subway.

Michael Algieri is a real find as the young black boy who becomes attached to Sam, despite the attempts of the police and child services agencies to seperate him from his newly adopted father figure. In this sense, the film makes a nod to the early Chaplin classic THE KID, playing with heartstrings as the two develop a real rapor.

Circling around this faux father-son relationship are three sets of couples: Zoe Kazan and Pablo Schreiber are friends whose marriage may be breaking up because of a business opportunity that might lure the husband to the West Coast. Malin Akerman plays Sam's best friend, who has her own tsuris.....she has a medical condition that leaves her bald and she has the unrequited hots for a friendly guy at work played by Tony Hale. Finally there's Sam himself, who becomes smitten with a barmaid/cabaret singer played by Kate Mara.

The funny and smart script is fleshed out by the naturalistic performance of the attractive young cast. In many ways, the film patterns the indie hit (500) DAYS OF SUMMER, with a winning set of protagonists and supporting characters who are not just there for comic relief. Despite its modest budget, the film has a quality look to it, without falling victim to the cliches that have plagued many recent Hollywood romantic comedies.

Gen Art kicks off its 15th anniversary with a film that should eventually make waves at the indie box office and that will be remembered as the first effort of a talented writer/director who has many more interesting stories to tell.

For more information on the full program of the Gen Art Film Festival, which runs through April 13, visit: http://www.genart.org/filmfestival/newyork/2010

Sandy Mandelberger, Film New York Editor

 

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Mandelberger Sandy
(International Media Resources)

The Ultimate Guide to the New York Film, Video and New Media Scene.

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