The Happy Poet
Paul Gordon, Jonny Mars, Chris Doubek, Liz Fisher
Finding your calling in life takes time, perseverance and money. Bill has the time and the perseverance, but doesn’t have the money. Can he make a success off a meager $750 investment? The Happy Poet follows the emotionally-challenged ex-wage slave as he struggles to make a go of his partially vegetarian concession stand while outside forces are seemingly only wanting to take advantage of him.
The film opens as Bill (Paul Gordon) is attempting to acquire a large loan to help start his unusual idea for a business. Hoping to bring health-conscious eating to the people who frequent a local park, Bill wants his natural and tofu creations to take off just to prove that he can accomplish something without having to be chained to a job he loathes. After his first disastrous day in the park, mooching hipster Curtis (Chris Doubek) becomes his first client followed by pot-selling opportunist Donny (Jonny Mars) each of whom have grand ideas for his business, but ultimately plan to use him while they can.
Bill’s only real opposition is his own trusting nature. Putting too much faith in those around him, everything begins to collapse as he realizes he’s almost out of money and doesn’t have the income to support his rather costly business expenditures. None of his compatriots are stereotypical villains, each are given a healthy set of flaws that don’t make any of them teeter over the edge into absurdity. This is to the credit of Gordon who is also the film’s writer and director.
Gordon’s approach to filmmaking is straightforward. The audience isn’t forced to endure long-winded sermons or clever dialogue in an attempt to make the work feel more important than it is. Gordon is a man of few words and although his awkward, Eeyore-like personality is somewhat charming, it’s that style of presentation that gives the film a level of honesty a lot of independent films are too frequently lacking. The story is involving without being outlandish, though some of the situations presented are a bit too quirky, the off-beat charm is addictive to a point.
The film’s structure parallels Bill’s journey. Like his healthy lunch cart, the film begins innocently, gains a level of organic complexity as it progresses and ultimately crashes into an inorganic mess of unexpected events and consequences beginning shortly before the film’s climax. Having discovered the betrayal of his supposed friends, he pushes them all away, wanting nothing more to do with any of them, but the film’s twist leads to a highly incredible climax and the final scenes feel completely out of place.
The Happy Poet mostly lives up to its name. In the end, Bill is Happy and consequently the audience is too. Yet, it’s a happiness that isn’t without its frustrations. It’s an interesting sophomore effort for a talented independent filmmaker. Where he goes from here will determine his best career move. The film took three years to arrive in theaters after premiering at South By Southwest. Clearly, Gordon’s efforts have been a bit of a struggle; however, like his protagonist, it may just take the right climactic twist to send him in a new direction. Here’s hoping.
March 24, 2013