THE HAPPY POET
(director/writer: Paul Gordon; cinematographer: Lucas Millard; editor: Paul Gordon; music: Paul Gordon/Jonny Mars/Eric Friend/Military Babies; cast: Jonny Mars (Donnie), Chris Doubek (Curtis), Liz Fisher (Agnes), Paul Gordon (Bill/The Happy Poet), Trey Spaw (Lars, bartender), Carlos Trevino (Derrick), Ricardo G. Lerma(Banker), Amy Myers Martin(Lily), Sam Wainwright Douglas (Buddy); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Paul Gordon/David Hartstein; Cinema Libre Studio; 2010)
“Sincerely tells about an underdog geek trying to survive in a world ruled by capitalists.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The debut film ofPaul Gordon is an uplifting mumblecore one-note low-key serio-comedy about outsiders. It’s an indie filmed on a shoestring budget, that has a big heart as it sincerely tells about an underdog geek trying to survive in a world ruled by capitalists. Gordon besides directing, writing, and editing, engagingly plays the inarticulate poet and droll humored repressed good guy health food cart seller known as The Happy Poet. It’s appealing in a cloying way, as it seduces the viewer to string along with the sufferings of the unworldly hero until by a stroke of luck he turns things around and in the conclusion has his comeuppance moments with the bad guy venture capitalist (Carlos Trevino), the oily banker (Ricardo G. Lerma) and the hostile food cart owner (Sam Wainwright Douglas).
Bill (Paul Gordon) is a socially awkward timid master’s degree holder in creative writing, who writes poetry that’s not published. He has just quit a job that doesn’t suit him and gets an unsatisfactory $750 paltry business loan from a put-down smug lecturing banker and with that capital buys on a monthly installment plan an old hot-dog cart from a cranky sneering owner. Bill, with barely enough money to buy food for his first day, takes his cart to the Austin city park to sell his home-made health food sandwiches such as a vegan egg-less egg sandwich. Bill finds that the customers prefer the unhealthy hot dogs and boycott his stand. Only he’s heartened that before he leaves the park, a grubby looking spacey bike rider named Curtis (Chris Doubek) tries the sandwich for free and waxes poetic about it. That night Bill joins his former college dorm residents. There he meets obnoxious slickster slacker Donnie (Jonny Mars), prone to calling others dudes and telling us his philosophy is “squeeze or be squeezed,” who sets himself up as the neighborhood scooter deliveryman and PR man for the food stand. Soon the hangers-on name the stand The Happy Poet, and the tasty healthy food stand attracts as a regular customer the pretty Agnes (Liz Fisher).
Things fall apart when Bill discovers Donnie is using the delivery service to peddle weed and that he can’t make enough money to continue because there’s too many spongers free-loading off his generous nature. But when things are at their dimmest, our reluctant hero shows he can find success through perseverance, loyal friends, passion for what he’s doing, talent and some luck.
Its popular appeal is as a classic Capra-like story of the little guy doing his own thing in the cruel mercenary world and surviving without selling out his principles or ethics. It works best when depicting how the non-aggressive Bill is having a tough time adjusting to running a profitable business, but loses its edge when it unconvincingly in the third-act throws out a few curve balls to show the resiliency of the nerdy Bill and that he has what it takes to win the girl and run his kind of a responsible organic health business despite the obstacles. It’s a film whose comedy would have benefited more if the story wasn’t so limiting and the characters so one-dimensional.
REVIEWED ON 3/19/2013 GRADE: B