The romantic comedy is a staple at Sundance just as much as it is in the multiplex. You just have to expect that the characters involved in those romances are going to be a little bit … different. And unfortunately, you can often define “different” as “aggressively quirky to a degree that will make you want to slap them.”
In writer/director Diane Bell’s conspicuously precious Obselidia, librarian George (Michael
Piccirilli) spends his down time accumulating artifacts and interviews
chronicling things that have become obsolete—everything from manual typewriters
to North Pole ice. Along the way he befriends Sophie (Gaynor Howe), a
projectionist at a repertory theater whose own career may be on the way out,
but nevertheless maintains a sunny outlook. The first act is even cutesier and
more grating than that description sounds, dutifully cataloging all of George’s
pessimistic, self-isolating quirks set to a twinkly glockenspiel-ish score.
Once George and Sophie head off on a road trip to
Less overtly oddball—but unfortunately not less frustrating—is Josh Radnor’s happythankyoumoreplease. Since it’s been nearly 20 years since Cameron Crowe’s Singles, Radnor may have thought it was time to give the romantic foibles of 20-something urban tribesfolk a generational updating, and that he was just the guy to do it. He was mistaken. Set over the course of a week in Manhattan, it follows a handful of commitment-shy characters, including Sam (Radnor), a struggling would-be writer; Annie (Malin Akerman), his alopecia-afflicted gal-pal; and Mary Catherine (Zoe Kazan), whose boyfriend is contemplating moving to Los Angeles. Rador swings back and forth between his various sub-plots—also finding time for Sam’s relationship with a young boy left behind on a subway—almost haphazardly, and throwing in at least two more montages than the recommended daily allowance. But mostly he constructs his stories more with an eye to some warm-fuzzy-hip indie formula than anything genuinely insightful about Gen Y. He may know his way around the occasional amusing one liner, but when it comes to real humanism, Rador’s nothing to Crowe about.