Critics' Pick

The Happy Poet (NR)

Comedy 85 March 22, 2013
By Michelle Orange
Fresh from a showing in Venice, the Austin-bred SXSW pet The Happy Poet is returning to its native shores a little worldlier for the wear. For Paul Gordon, the writer, director, and star of this wry, ambivalent take on wish-fulfilling romantic comedies, a flashy international premiere is a fitting development for a sweet, stealthy film about creating meaning in your life (and your work) in a relentlessly mercenary world. As Bill, a soporific MFA washout who reinvents himself as the proprietor of an all-organic, vegetarian food cart, Gordon explores the tenability of pushing handmade goods in a pre-fab world. An introvert forced into huckster mode, Bill sets up shop in a sun-kissed stretch of Austin park and refuses to give the people what they want: hot dogs. A few supporters (including Jonny Mars as a wily opportunist, Chris Doubek as a local mooch, and Liz Fisher as a would-be love interest) hang around Bill and his cart, encouraging the recovering artist to begin with a brand. Off-handed and yet quite artfully observed, The Happy Poet's winsome deadpan offsets its skewering of class and sustainability issues, right through to a tricky ending that, like Bill himself, may not be what it seems.
Paul Gordon Chris Doubek, Sam Wainwright Douglas, Paul Famighetti, Liz Fisher, Paul Gordon, James Jensen, Matt Joyner, Anika Kunik, Ricardo G. Lerma, Jonny Mars Paul Gordon Cinema Libre