Monday, March 14, 2011

Happythankyoumoreplease, or My Life As an Indie Movie

On Friday, I saw Happythankyoumoreplease, which was basically Josh Radnor of How I Met Your Mother fame's attempt to be Woody Allen.  It kind of worked, in no small part because Radnor--who also played the lead--is quite adorable.  (Not that Woody Allen's adorable, unless your name is Soon-Yi, but you get my drift.)  And for once Malin Akerman, aka The Worst Working Actress in Hollywood, didn't annoy me too much, even though it was obvious she thought she was sooo deep for playing a hippie chick with alopecia.  However, the AV Club (who I would kill puppies to write for) made a good point: if Radnor weren't an established TV actor on a popular series, this movie probably wouldn't have gotten past the screenplay stage. 

Why?  Because it is full of Indie Movie Cliches.

And because I am a sucker for Indie Movie Cliches, roll my eyes at them as I am buying my ticket to whatever twee attempt at capturing the Stuff White People Like experience, I began to wonder.

What would my life be like if I existed in an indie movie?

Here goes:

1.  I would have long hair.  With bangs.  Unless I was the manic and/or perpetually horny and/or E-popping club-hopping friend/foil of the male protagonist.  Then I could keep my short hair.

2.  I would either play the guitar or have a charming yet sultry singing voice, which would only be used for folk songs, ironic covers of 80's hits, or Kander & Ebb showtunes that outline my life's overarching themes or the lesson I am supposed to learn that day.

3.  Speaking of music, I would have a ton of it.  Whenever I had sex, created something meaningful, saw someone on the street who would eventually play a huge part in my life, came to a major decision, or just sat and pondered my life, there would be gentle guitars and gravelly male tunefulness or uber-feminine warbling right on cue. 

4.  Jeff Daniels would be my dad.  Or my sad sack love interest.  Either way, Jeff Daniels would be involved.

5.  If my love interest weren't Jeff Daniels, he would be a mopey, vest-wearing, Smiths-loving gent with a quirky day job that still stifles his natural artistic instincts to pen navel-gazing prose, draw loser-turned-superhero comics or design arty buildings.  OR he would be a nerdy stalker who takes photos without my knowledge which he later shows to me to prove how beautiful I don't know I am, and instead of calling the police for a Temporary Restraining Order, I am totally charmed.

6.  I wouldn't have any gay male friends.  I would, however, know a lesbian or two who wanted to adopt or get turkey bastered.

7.  If there were any children in my orbit, they would draw meaningful pictures and spout innocent wisdom causing me to question my values and possibly get pregnant.

8.  I would--only once--get drunk and sleep with my ex, and feel quietly empty and regretful the next day.  And possibly get pregnant.

9.  My apartment building would have a stoop to sit on with my friends while we drank bottled beer and wondered "where is my home?"  That's more than an Indie Movie Cliche.  That is an Indie Movie Law.

And finally...

10.  As a woman, I would only exist as the sarcastibitch sister who swears a lot, the friend/foil who listens supportively between E-popping and club-hopping, or the long-haired pixie musician who captivates the whiny manboy protagonist simply by making eye contact with him on the sidewalk while sporting an Anthropologie sundress.  If I were one of the first two, I might get a subplot where I acquire a nerdy stalker or impregnate myself via ex or turkey baster.

Hey, I love indie movies.  If I didn't, I wouldn't be familiar with all these cliches.  However, just FOR ONCE can there be an indie movie with a smart, funny young female protagonist?  With someone who has a corporate job and is happy about it?  With gay characters who are real people?

I know they're all out there, but there are not enough.

Script Frenzy is coming up.  I don't know shit from apple butter about writing a screenplay, but I'm a little tempted to give it a shot.


  1. I have to admit that that movie looks cute. I can't remember what the name of the lead actress is, but I've seen her in several things and she seems like she's a good fit for that movie. And I also have to admit that I'm a sucker for movies about writers.

  2. Paaaahahaha. Enjoyed reading this a LOT more than I enjoyed watching the trailer ;)

  3. hungryandfrozen: Thank you!

    NW, it WAS cute. Despite my snark, I really did enjoy it, and it had some nice underlying messages. That's what I find funny: I scoff at all these cliches, yet show me a preview with scruffy boys and gentle guitars and I am guaranteed to buy a ticket!

  4. Oh my. I have a love/hate thing with indies. Because I totally recognize the cliche but I love them to bits. Then I hate myself for loving them so much.

    Isn't it weird how some indies are so chockfull of cliche, but some can pull it off while others can't? And I can't quite put my finger on why, say, (500) Days of Summer kicked ass, but the movie version of Mysteries of Pittsburgh was so deplorable. They both screamed CLICHE!

  5. Hi Nikki!

    I totally feel you on the love/hate relationship with indies.

    For me, it's a question of believability: not necessarily the circumstances, but the characters and their motivations. I know a lot of people loved Garden State, but I haaaated it because no one seemed real to me. You had the Mopey Male, the Loser Friend, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. And the Obligatory Drug Trip. (I loved the soundtrack, though.)

    On the other hand, there's a lot of hate for Juno too, but I really loved it. "No one talks like that" dialogue aside--which I don't care about, because no one talks like Woody Allen or David Mamet movies either, it's a separate world and I'm fine with that--I thought Juno, her family and friends seemed very real, imperfect yet likable and capable of real emotion and change. Away We Go had twee moments, but at its heart was a nice couple who genuinely loved each other and their unborn child. And even (500) Days of Summer, which I adored as well, really showed how Tom idealized Summer. She wasn't the perfect dream girl on a pedestal--in the end she was a regular person in an uneven relationship.

    At its best, Happythankyoumoreplease had characters that reminded me of my friends, and some heartfelt core messages. The indies that annoy me the most are the ones with rampant cliches and no concern for character development.