Midway through happythankyoumoreplease, a couple makes out while delivering qualified praise of a director who creates films much like this one. Neither of the lovers actually utters the filmmaker's name, but that's hardly necessary: It's clear that they're living in a wannabe Woody Allen movie.
Smartly written and capably directed by Josh Radnor of TV's How I Met Your Mother, this is among the better Allen knockoffs of recent years, even if a few of its riffs seem hazardously off-key.
The most jarring one comes early in the movie: Freelance writer, aspiring novelist and classic New York neurotic Sam (Radnor) is rushing to a meeting with a potential publisher when he sees a boy get separated from his guardian at a subway stop. Sam takes the taciturn kid along with him; later, Rasheen (Michael Algieri) will resist going to the cops and hint that his foster family has been bad to him.
Sam allows Rasheen to move in with him -- temporarily. The boy doesn't say much, but he likes to draw and eat pizza and French toast. Maybe someday he'll go to school. In the meantime, he functions as Sam's mascot during the writer's campaign to snare a pretty waitress everyone calls Mississippi (Kate Mara).
The movie is stuffed with contemporary jangle-pop, but Mississippi pays another tribute to Allen by being a cabaret singer who ends the proceedings with a chirpy version of Kander and Ebb's "Sing Happy." Broadway Danny Rose would be right at home.
While Sam's romantic relationships generally don't last long, he does have two longtime female friends. Annie (Malin Akerman) suffers from alopecia, a condition that causes baldness, but her biggest problem is her attraction to immature, irresponsible men; Mary Catherine (Zoe Kazan) has a dedicated live-in boyfriend, Charlie (Pablo Schreiber), but she begins to doubt that she really loves him when he shows interest in moving to, ugh, L.A.
Mary Catherine tries to work through her crisis, mostly without consulting Charlie. Meanwhile, Annie finally agrees to date another guy named Sam (Tony Hale), a co-worker whose enthusiasm for her is a little scary.
Sam manages to charm Mississippi, despite his refusal to go see her perform. (He explains why; it's a long story.) Their planned "three-night stand" shows signs of lasting even longer until Mississippi learns that Rasheen is -- at least technically -- a kidnap victim. She leaves, but Sam dedicates himself to winning her back.
Akerman gives the movie's most nuanced performance, although there's a memorable cameo by Richard Jenkins as the grumpy publisher who rejects Sam's novel. Jenkins was recently seen dispensing tough-talking spiritual wisdom in Eat Pray Love, but here the philosophy comes from Annie, who learned it from an Indian cabdriver. It is, of course, "Happy thank you more please."
Yeah, well, a bit more, maybe. There's a lot of self-affirmation in this movie, in which characters are regularly enjoined to consider themselves "worthy" or to accept being "adored." Sometimes it seems all three couples at the center of this film should move to L.A.